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Survey: Honesty Still Highly Ranked Policy

Employees say they value forthrightness above all in a boss.
Lisa YoonJanuary 8, 2003

What do employees want most from the company’s top bosses? Not necessarily what you might think — or at least, that’s the upshot of a new survey by organizational-consulting firm Right Management Consultants.

The survey asked 570 full-time, white-collar employees: “What is the most important trait or attribute that the leader of your company should possess?”

In response, participants came up with 28 attributes they felt were most important for their leaders to have.

Given last year’s corporate scandals, it’s hardly surprising that the top trait was honesty, with 24 percent of respondents naming it as the most important trait in a leader. The other top four: integrity/morals/ethics (16 percent); caring or compassion (seven percent); fairness (6.5 percent); and good relationships with employees, including approachability and listening skills (six percent).

The study notes that these top traits were pretty much consistent regardless of respondents’ gender or race. But interestingly, there was a substantial difference in attitude about honesty between two age groups. Honesty seems to be big among 55 to 64 year-olds. In fact, 38 percent of that group called it their top trait. On the other hand, only 16 percent of the 18 to 34 year-old set mentioned honesty as the most important leadership characteristic.

But what’s especially worth noting about these choices, says Chris Pierce-Cooke, worldwide director of Right’s organizational-consulting practice, is they are most valued by employees, even in a weak economy. Despite the specter of layoffs, a spotty recovery, and a third straight year of stock-market declines, he notes that employees, ” are not looking for leaders with a quick fix. Instead, they seem to be yearning for fundamental leadership principles, lessons on honesty and goodness that they were more likely to have learned in elementary school than in business or law school.”

Among the least-mentioned leadership attributes were flexibility (0.6 percent), good personality or sense of humor (0.5 percent), attention to detail (0.4 percent), creativity (1.2 percent), and decisiveness (0.8 percent).

Creativity? Decisiveness? Really? This may comes as news, since these are often characteristics that boards place a great emphasis on when hiring senior executives. It’s also a bit trouble since these attributes are commonly associated with a company’s success. After all, these qualities help equip a company to innovate, gain market share, and adapt to the latest changes in the economic weather.

But Pierce-Cooke defends the survey’s results. “I don’t believe that employees are disregarding the need for such things as creativity and decisiveness,” he explains. But in the wake of last year’s corporate scandals quality of character is taking center stage. “[Employees] are saying that the ethical tone [senior leaders] set for the organization is critical.”

CFOs on the Move

EMI Music Publishing named William G. Sorenson CFO. Sorenson was most recently EVP and CFO of BeMusic, the Bertelsmann AG subsidiary that comprises BMG Music Service and CD Now. Before that, he spent eight years as a senior executive with News Corp., where he served as SVP of finance from 1996 to 1999 and VP of investor relations from 1991 to 1993 … Argosy Gaming Co. named president Richard J. Glasier to succeed James B. Perry as CEO when he retires in May. Glasier joined the company as president last July from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., where he was EVP and CFO … Amerigon Inc. appointed William J. Wills CFO. Wills replaces Sandra L. Grouf, a Californian who resigned upon relocation of company’s corporate headquarters to Dearborn, Mich. Wills is will keep his current job as VP of finance in addition to CFO. He joined Amerigon in October.