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Leadership Column: A Fight We Must Win… Together We Can (Mar/Apr 2014)

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Ethics Matters

March/April 2014

We are in a fight.

It’s a fight to reduce corporate misconduct, and the need for us to fight is growing.

Recently, I read of the $1.2 billion penalty given to Toyota by the U.S. Justice Department for misleading consumers about the safety of its vehicles. It’s the largest fine ever for a car company.

Rather than promptly issuing a recall in light of a problem with sticking acceleration pedals, Toyota attempted to protect its reputation by misleading consumers about the true safety of their vehicles. Not only was money lost in this scandal, but also many lives due to accidents caused by the cars’ defects.

Executive management at Toyota was influencing junior employees to execute the wrongdoing by developing and delivering inaccurate messages to customers. Unfortunately, this top-down approach is how many of these types of cases take place. I applaud the Justice Department for challenging investigators to continue to bring charges against the responsible parties at Toyota.

Stories like this increase my passion for the work of the NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT).Through campus events, our annual Student Leadership Conference and our new Ethical Leadership Certification Program, we are teaching college students how to recognize and avoid unethical behavior that may be requested by their company’s leaders.

Greed, competitive pressures, and the lack of commitment to building ethical cultures still handicap many businesses and their leaders today. The CPT is determined to build the number of ethical future leaders entering the corporate arena to make a positive difference.

However, we cannot afford to only fight for the future. We are also working to reshape the thinking of current leaders, by challenging them to build ethical cultures within their companies.

The CPT is partnering with CPA societies and organizations like Financial Executives International (FEI) to show leaders how to make positive change in their company’s ethical climate.

Whether you’ve been involved in the CPT’s activities before or not, we can always use your help. The future stakes of ethical leadership have never been higher, as we continue to shift more into a global economy where the impact of our decisions reaches further than ever.

The irreversible consequences of Toyota’s wrongdoings are a wake-up call that we must win this fight. Together we can.

– As Always, Lead With Integrity!

Alfonzo Alexander

President, CPT

> Read Full March/April 2014 Ethics Matters