Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

James Kirsch – The Ferro Corporation CE

How does your view of ethics affect your organization?

Ethical behavior is at the heart of all we do at Ferro.  In fact, our operating tenants, known as Win from Within, state explicitly that Trust and Integrity are at the core of all we do. In addition we train our people around the world on compliance issues, our Code of Conduct, and other areas that are linked to Ethics. Being ethical and behaving in that manner are an employment requirement at Ferro globally.

How do ethics affect the bottom line of your organization?

Ethics are in integral part of the bottom line of any Company.  The cost of being unethical ranges from hard costs (such as legal fees, damages, lost employees, lost customers, reduction in  profitability and share price so your enterprise value declines, credit ratings may be impacted making the cost of borrowing higher) to soft costs such as loss of reputation, which ultimately results in more hard costs!

What is the relationship between ethics and corporate citizenship in your organization

 I believe my comments in #1 are related here.  Fundamentally in my mind we are trying to build a sustainable winning organization that optimizes shareholder value. That all starts with me and the people I pick to lead the organization.  Our behaviors are crucial to the success of realizing our aspirations. I only want people at Ferro that are disciplined in their life and dependable.  I do not believe you can separate one's personal behaviors from your professional ones.  You are either ethical or you are not...there really is not any gray area there. Thus by definition our ethical employees are in fact good corporate citizens.

 What is an ethical challenge you faced during your career? How did you respond?

 Candidly I have not had that issue.  I can tell you that just prior to my joining Ferro in 2004 the Company suffered through an ethics breach perpetrated by an individual former employee.  I had the difficult task of cleaning up afterwards and "fixing" the organization upon ascending to the CEO role.  It all started with defining for the organization what our values are, how we will conduct ourselves, and living the values of Ferro and my personal ones such that I modeled every day in every circumstance the appropriate behaviors and ethics.  That included putting in place the operating tenants, the Code of Conduct, training, and replacing people who could not or would not live the standards we required.