Corporate Eye

The Best Companies For Leaders Surveys Humm, I have a Problem

I planned to write a post about “Leadership Branding”. In case you want a short definition here it is, “In other words, a leadership brand occurs when leaders’ knowledge, skills and values focus employee behavior on the factors that target the issues that customers care about,” this is from the book, “Leadership Brand” (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).

As I researched this further, I came upon two annual surveys of “The Best Companies For Leaders” The most prominent is featured in Fortune Magazine, and is conducted by Hewitt Associates and the RBL Group.

The second is featured in Chief Executive Magazine and is conducted by the Hay Group.

While these are well meaning efforts, they are lacking in a critical area – Ethics, Integrity or Credibility. When I looked at their descriptions of how they selected the companies, one had only brief reference to Ethics, Integrity or Credibility. The other mentioned Credibility but it was an internal focus. This is a problem and these normally astute consulting companies should know better.

You will not find many objections to the two surveys. Seems there is a herd instinct — most readers run with the results and don’t look behind the methodology. I did find one negative comment —

Chief Executive, March 2007 (responding to their “Best Companies for Leaders” article)

“One has to question the methodology of any study that would include The Coca- Cola Company as a “Best Company for Leaders” (December 2006). This is a company that engaged in the most embarrassing CEO succession process in corporate history, publicly begging (and being rejected by) various notables to be their CEO.

This followed five years of horrible stock performance as they went through three CEOs. They have been beaten soundly by PepsiCo from both a market share and stock price perspective. Why, exactly, would this be a great place to be a leader?” Marc Effron Vice President, Talent Management

Despite Sarbanes/Oxley, business schools ramping up Business Ethics courses and lofty Corporate Codes Of Ethics, the recent New York (US) Governor scandal is a wake up call that Integrity continues to be an issue that needs attention. According to The 2008 Edelman Trust Barometer the credibility of CEOs in the US and Europe have not improved much since the mega scandals era.

A critical leadership issue is the absolute importance of Integrity. I learned that if leaders don’t have Integrity, nothing else matters much. (Synonyms — Authenticity, Credibility,Trust.)

The dictionary definition of Integrity is –“comprises the personal inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character” This is OK, but this from Howard Adamsky, in his article “A New Day for American Leadership” is far better, “Ethical and effective leadership is a rare commodity. It takes an uncommon person to act as its provider. This leadership is part vision, part art, part science, part experience, part faith and part know-how, all bound together in an ironclad package called integrity.”

Leadership Integrity always important for Business success is again critical. We are experiencing a seminal change in the business environment — from the Information Age to the New/Knowledge Economy, yet the news continues to report so called Leaders who are falling from grace and there is talk of a “leadership crisis”.

In a recent post I mentioned the “Best Places to Work For” survey conducted by the Great Place to Work® Institute, Inc. It is interesting to note that only one US company, General Mills, appears on one of the “Best Companies For Leaders” survey AND the “Best Places to Work For” survey. Fortune and Chief Executive magazines should consider using the Great Place to Work® Institute, Inc. model.

It has credibility and trust as key measures. Humm.

The following two tabs change content below.
Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.

Ed — Great blog! You really nailed the issue here which (to my comments published in Chief Executive and in Fortune) is that there needs to be a slightly healthier balance between brand promotion and reality. I started the Top Companies for Leaders study while at Hewitt in 2001 and ran the first three administrations. Before I left Hewitt in 2005, we had decided to NOT do the survey again because it had served its purpose — increasing our knowledge about how to grow great leaders. At the time, we felt that continuing the survey process would appear self-serving and take attention away from the REAL problem — that companies aren’t building leaders effectively.

While recognizing the “Top 20” does no harm, it might be a better use of our collective time to help the bottom 980 companies actually build betters leaders.

Marc Effron

Comments are closed.