What CEO's Believe: The Impact on the Bottom Line
by Fred Kiel, Ph.D.
My co-author, Doug Lennick, and I began researching the concept of moral intelligence as it applies to business performance and leadership success in the mid-1990’s. A book, Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success, which details our first stage findings, was published by Wharton Business School Press in June, 2005.
Among several reviews (New York Times; Harvard Business Review), Newsweek reported in their June 27, 2005 issue:
“Morality's a hot topic in corporate America, but the authors actually began researching it in the mid-'90s. Their theory: having a leader with high moral intelligence (defined as the capacity to apply principles like integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness to goals and daily actions) is as beneficial for a company's bottom line as it is for the corporate culture. The authors back this up in the 304-page book with anecdotes from dozens of top Fortune 500 executives. But you'll have to wait for the quantitative research. The pair plan to spend several more years compiling data on the relationship between business leaders' moral intelligence and companies' long-term performance.”
We are now gathering the quantitative research data.
Previous research (Kotter & Heskette, 1992) demonstrated the connection between “adaptive” cultures and outstanding business results. To date, no one has taken the next step and identified the beliefs that drive the leaders who create and maintain these very successful company cultures.
Why This Research Is Important
The following excerpt taken from an op/ed piece we wrote last summer expresses it best:
“So, does it really matter what CEO’s believe? We believe it matters a great deal. And we think that there is a “right” view on this matter – even though it has yet to be proven with research. What do successful CEO’s believe about human nature? What do they believe about themselves? Why are some driven to achieve sustained business results by following universal rules of human conduct instead of bending the rules?
“Answering these questions might be the most important research that can be done. After all, no amount of new rules about compliance or newer versions of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill will accomplish what we need. Simply staying technically within legal boundaries is not enough. Instead, we need to develop self-monitoring moral individuals as leaders who then go on to create virtuous circles and become moral educators in their own right. For better or worse, CEO’s teach us all by their behavior.”
Fred Kiel, Ph.D. Author and Researcher