Integrity is an immutable trait of leadership, the demise of which has led to recent disasters like the banking Royal Commission. According to former Qantas CIO and Non-Executive Director Fiona Balfour, values don't change as you get older, it's your relationship to them that evolves.
Emily Wilson: I really appreciate the way Fiona answers questions. She answers them mindfully, thoughtfully... she considers things. You'll see this here; I asked her whether her personal values have actually changed over a period of time.
Fiona Balfour: I would say my personal values have got more pronounced as I've matured and aged. But, the difference now is I will say to myself, "am I going to go to the wall over this?". When you're younger and less experienced and something really irritates you, you react in a certain manner. It might be the same value but as you get a bit older, you work out that there's more than one way to skin a cat - you figure out that you can solve this problem another way.
I still get really cranky every time there's a fraud issue or it becomes very clear someone has lied or misled somebody, I get really cranky about that.
Emily Wilson: Because it goes against your personal values?
Fiona Balfour: Absolutely, absolutely.
Emily Wilson: What would your personal values be in this regard?
Fiona Balfour: Oh... be transparent, be open.
Look, bad things happen in life. So when a bad thing happens, you say 'I'm really sorry, bad things happened, I stuffed up'... you take accountability.
So, no. I don't think my values have changed, I think I'm more articulate about what my values are now. 40 years ago I would have said 'that person, I get a bad vibe from that person'. Whereas now I'll say, "I don't believe what I'm being told". And if I feel strongly enough about it I'll share that feeling with my colleagues.
Emily Wilson: How do you think accountability is driven within an organisation?
Fiona Balfour: It has to be driven from the Board and the Chief Executive down.
If you if you don't walk that talk, you don't get it.
Most people actually want to do the right thing. Most people behave honourably. The trouble is if you are in an organisation where there is ambiguity or murkiness... and you well know, this is what the banking Royal Commission has been focused on recently where there's been a lot of ambiguity about what was the most important thing. Was it looking after customers or was it hitting your profit targets?
All the evidence suggests that profit targets came before customer focus. And by definition, if that's happening at the top, that will drive behaviour down below every time. And you see that - we've just seen it very clearly with the Royal Commission.
The leadership that happens out of the boardroom and out of the C-suite is what drives the values and the integrity of the organization. You need every executive and every manager to support the value structure.
Emily Wilson: So true. So obvious. Yet apparently not. I believe Fiona's intrinsic level of integrity is a beacon for the very best leaders in both business and in life. And I love the way she brings this to life for us.
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