The old saying “it’s lonely at the top” reminds those on their way up the corporate ladder that the person sitting at the top of the organizational pyramid doesn’t typically have others at the same level they can speak with on equal terms.
This not only can make socializing harder but also limits senior leaders’ ability to bounce ideas off similarly situated colleagues because there simply aren’t many.
Navigating Ethical Dilemmas
Being in a league of one’s own within an organization can also make it more difficult to get a clear sense of ethical boundaries and behavior norms. CEOs can’t simply take cues from the CEO in the next cubical on whether it’s OK to leave a bit early on Friday, splurge on the expense account, or have an office relationship.
Obviously, there typically are HR and other company policies in place to address the most clear-cut ethical dilemmas, but there are sometimes gray areas that may make CEOs long for a peer’s behavior to model.
While there typically isn’t more than one CEO in most companies, there are certainly many CEOs in corporate America, and because of their high profile, they can be great sources of information and insight into how to comport oneself in certain situations and, as highlighted in a recent Entrepreneur slideshow, how not to comport oneself.
Learning from Major Falls
The slideshow, put together by Tom Popomaronis, titled “These 11 Famously Disgraced CEOs Have Entered the Reputation Hall of Shame,” covers business leaders like Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, as well as Harvey Weinstein. The list provides cautionary tales from industry peers for those at the top to learn from.
But not all of those who make up the ignominious list have committed obvious felonies like Lay, Skilling, and Weinstein. Some have simply demonstrated poor judgment and ethics, ranging from lying on a résumé to having relationships with subordinates.
There are certainly plenty of examples of top executives who have been guilty of more nuanced ethically and morally questionable decisions that didn’t make Popomaronis’s list, but it isn’t meant to be exhaustive.
Instead, it provides an example of how, in the absence of similarly situated staff in their own companies, top CEOs can and should look to peers in other organizations to gauge their own performance and decision-making.