Integrity Matters

So say the folks who took our latest survey, by a huge margin. Too bad they find it in such short supply among today’s leaders.

How’s this for two different models of leadership: Jack Welch and Steve Jobs?

They may be about as alike as chalk and cheese, but General Electric’s magisterial manager and Apple’s mercurial mythmaker came out number one and two, respectively, when we asked the 1,665 respondents to our Fast Track Leadership Survey to name the person who most exemplifies great leadership. (We teamed up with IMD, the Switzerland-based business school, and Egon Zehnder International, the executive-recruiting firm, to conduct the survey.) The list grows even more eclectic: Rounding out the top five are Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell–and, in a three-way tie for fifth place, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, and George W. Bush.


The good news:

By an overwhelming margin–95% to 5%–our survey takers said the ethics of the CEO play a meaningful role in the way business gets done. Leadership, they said, starts at the top, and ethical leadership filters throughout the organization. Good ethics is also good business, many said: It builds brands, draws customers, and saves money in the long run. “Integrity matters a lot to respondents,” says Sean Meehan, professor of marketing and director of IMD’s MBA program. “They’re emphatic-‘This is an issue, and I’ve got something to say about it.’ ”

The bad news:

When we asked folks to rate leaders in various types of organizations, most got middling to poor grades on integrity. On a scale of zero to five (with five being the best), people gave their own organizations the highest score for integrity, a healthy average of 3.87. But things go downhill from there, with leaders in small companies coming in at 3.53, large corporations at 2.81, and government at 2.20. Dead last on integrity: the media (ouch), at a dismal 1.90.

Here are the attributes for which leaders in each sector got the highest and lowest scores:

Large Corporations Small Companies Government The Media My Own Company
An international
mind-set / 4.28
Passionate about work
/ 4.46
/ 2.75
Ruthless for success
/ 3.82
about work / 4.05
Unselfish, altruistic
/ 2.03
An international
mind-set / 2.62
Can admit mistakes
/ 1.45
Unselfish, altruistic
/ 1.63
Unselfish, altruistic
/ 3.01

Full survey results

We know you value integrity in your leaders. And we’re sure
you also appreciate integrity in your surveys. Which is why we’re presenting its complete results here.

Download the full survey results. (pdf, 660k)