Bernie Madoff. Stanford Financial. Enron. Tiger Woods. Governor Mark Sanford. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. People and companies who lost their moral compass.
Leaders of high character are desperately needed today. Employees want to follow leaders of character. Customers want to buy from companies and brands of character. They want honesty, not half-truths. They seek integrity, not situational ethics. They want to be treated with respect, not abused or ignored.
Recently I participated in an awards program sponsored by The First Tee of Greater Austin, an organization that I co-founded and that I’m privileged to chair. The Nine Core Values Awards were presented to members of our community who represented one of the nine core values we try to teach and model for the youth in the program. These values are honesty, integrity, responsibility, courtesy, respect, sportsmanship, perseverance, confidence and judgment. If these values are worthy to model for our kids, they are also worthy to model for our teams. As I look at companies today that are embroiled in public relations nightmares, I’d argue it is because they failed on one of these nine values.
Marketing leaders, who in many cases are their companies’ chief brand ambassadors, must be people of character if their brands are going to be. Character is one of the few things that can be assessed in a binary way. We either live with integrity or we don’t. We treat all people with courtesy or we don’t. We act responsibly or we don’t. These are high standards to live up to, but these are the standards that distinguish a great leader from the pack. How are we doing?