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By | 31/05/2022 in Blog posts

What value attaches to integrity when it comes to leadership and setting the tone at the top?

Without wishing to rehearse all the tedious details of recent events, there are two very diametrically opposed views on this currently.

On the one hand there are those who attach significant importance to the principle that essence of integrity is critical never mind the practical challenges and impracticalities which attach to maintaining it.

On the other hand, there are those who for the sake of expedience and ‘getting on’ with the challenges-in-hand are inclined to overlook that principle.

One is reminded of the story told about Tommy Cooper who on entertaining his agent at lunch observed he was short-changed on payment of the bill and sought to make a fuss about it. His agent protested saying ‘Tommy, you are a rich man. Do not make a fuss in pubic’ To this Tommy replied, ‘It is not the principle, but the money!

Of course, each situation of this type has to be judged on its own facts and there is a balance always to be struck. But there is no doubt that while the expedient approach may be advantageous in the short term, the risk of insidious consequences on an organisation’s culture and the wider society cannot be discounted in the longer term. How often has one witnessed that an incremental adjustment in standards of behaviour, which at the time seem to be innocuous and acceptable, after a period and when judged by the man in the street, is deemed to be thoroughly unacceptable and even dishonest.

Boards will be acutely aware of these dangers. Even the most principled of executive teams will often be tempted to opt for expediency and delivering results. That, after all, is their function. It is of course a critical role of the non-executive to act as the guardian of the principle of integrity and the culture.

In the sphere of politics, where are the non-executives?

James Bagge is the executive chairman and co-founder of Bvalco, a board evaluation consultancy focused on helping boards become fit for the future


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