Why is it so difficult to do the right thing?
Inspiration & Wisdom
By Pamela JefferyJune 4, 2012
It's a question WXN is tackling in our Breakfast series and it's one that business schools around the globe are addressing with myriad corporate governance courses aimed at trying to teach our future leaders to be honest and act with integrity. Fingers crossed these students are listening because their predecessors' lapses in ethical judgment brought down Wall Street and world markets.
Four years later, however, the poor judgment continues unabated. It looks like JPMorgan Chase will have to eat up close to $4 billion in trading losses (up from an early estimate of $2 billion) thanks to too risky investments. And still its superstar banker Jamie Dimond has the trust and support not only of his board but the shareholders who will most feel the loss. Why? Technically, he wasn't the one making the questionable trades. But if you are the CEO, don't you set the tone for the organization? Mr. Dimond has certainly been one of the industry's loudest voices against tougher banking regulation in the U.S. Is it really any surprise that one of his employees thought it was OK to roll the dice with other people's money?
On the opposite end of Lady Justice's scale, Scott Thompson just got fired from his role as CEO of Yahoo for lying on his resume. (He claimed to have a computer science degree, when in fact he only has an accounting degree--Silicon Valley was not impressed.) The difference between the two situations comes down to values, ethics and good governance. When Mr. Thompson's transgression was brought to light, Yahoo turned to its list of core values and specifically "Excellence," and "winning with integrity." For his part, Mr. Thompson has yet to take ownership for what he did and come clean—doing so may have saved his job. Instead, he said nothing and Yahoo showed him the door.
When we launched our Breakfast series on this topic in Toronto, we hosted GE Canada President Elyse Allan. She shared a funny anecdote about her husband questioning her on how a company does the right thing. Somewhat stunned with the pre-coffee question, she simply said, ‘we as a company, we have to operate in a bigger society. It’s not just about being a great company, it’s about being a good company’. She continued to underline how important it is not to just focus on the business itself but on how it affects the world. We need to see more examples of organizations and people living their values. When everything is out on the table and accountability, transparency and ethical leadership are on full display, then maybe it won't be so hard to do the right thing.
Title: Founder, Women's Executive Network
Organization: Founder, Canadian Board Diversity Council
Pamela Jeffery began her career as a government relations and communications strategist.
Prior to launching a successful public affairs consulting firm in Toronto in 1994, Pamela enjoyed a career as one of Canada's too few female lobbyists after serving as a Political Advisor in the Ontario government. Recognized by the National Post as a communications wizard, she also served as a Communications Advisor to Prime Minister Martin.
During a consulting assignment, Pamela was inspired to create a network for female leaders because one did not exist after determining she was not the only woman in Canada who wanted to be part of a network of like-minded women. Drawing on her experience in business, government and politics, she designed WXN for women in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. This reflected her concern that all too often, leaders in the private sector were unknown to leaders in other sectors, therefore denying them the opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another as women who were often the first to assume leadership roles in their organizations.
Since its founding in 1997, WXN has grown to 16,000 select women across Canada. In 2003, she founded Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards, now Canada's most prestigious Awards for female leaders. In 2008, WXN launched in Ireland- the first step towards creating an international community of female leaders. In 2012, Pamela was named as a charter member of Fast Company's League of Extraordinary Women in the leadership category, which recognizes 60 women from around the world for their dedication to changing the lives of women and girls.
In 2009, she founded the Canadian Board Diversity Council with a mandate from the federal government and private sector diversity leaders to increase the board representation of women, members of visible minority groups, Aboriginal peoples including First Nations, Inuit and Metis, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBT community over the next five years.
Pamela's commitment to community service is extensive. She is well-versed in corporate governance in the broader public and not-for-profit sectors having served on 12 boards and three governance committees. She currently serves as a Director of The Canadian Opera Company, the Ivey School of Business Entrepreneurship Council, and is a Governor of Trent University.
Pamela holds an MBA and an HBA from the Ivey School of Business. She taught government relations strategy in the MBA and Executive MBA Programs at the Rotman School of Management from 1992-2001.
She lives in Toronto with her husband Norman Inkster and is the mother of two sons Stephen and Samuel.