Are You a Pinnochio Leader?

July 18, 2016

In the Headlines
two people talking

You have read these, right? A couple of recent stories of business deceit that show how common place white collar crime has become:

United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) has agreed to pay $25 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims to the federal government in connection with its delivery of Next Day Air overnight packages, the Justice Department announced today.

Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG have agreed to plead guilty to felony charges and pay billions in criminal fines, the Department of Justice says. The offenses range from manipulating the market price of U.S. dollars and euros to rigging interest rates. 

Most of you are familiar with the story of Pinocchio and I am sure that you remember it through the lens of the Disney adaptation. Here's what happens: the brave Pinocchio is turned into a boy to everyone's delight. Even the talking cricket who is certainly not happy at Pinocchio's exploits is relieved.

That ending that you are familiar with is not the original ending. Collodi, the writer of Pinocchio, in the first edition of the book concluded the story with Pinocchio's execution. The Fox and the Cat hang Pinocchio who dies whispering "Oh Daddy, If only you were here!". Pretty gruesome, huh?

In the original story, Pinocchio is deceitful, mean-spirited, a real rogue and Collodi, who had no children of his own, saw only one solution to his criminal behaviors. He had to die. In 18th century Italy, the ending caused uproar among parents and children alike. Collodi changed the ending and Disney made Pinocchio an even more likable character.

I was thinking about the recent DOJ fines at deceitful UPS and a group of "rogue" banks in the past few days and suddenly it dawned on me that what we have here is an example of Pinocchio leadership.

Both UPS and these banks have received record fines for their deceitful actions. They probably thought it was no big deal that their clients, competitors and the marketplace in which they operate would suffer because of their actions. After all, in a global economy worth $75+ trillion, who would notice a few hundred million dollars missing? Just like Pinocchio, the leaders behind these criminal actions probably thought that they were just being little rascals.

Sure, the banks and UPS are paying their fines (a drop in the bucket considering their latest financial results). And just like in the Disney version of Pinocchio, these "leaders" will go on to live undisrupted lives, without paying the consequences of their actions...

What will it take to stop these individuals from committing these crimes? I simply cannot believe that these actions are circumstantial. We are increasingly allowing it to be okay for leaders to deceive and break the law as white collar crimes rarely go punished.

If you agree with me, then spend a few minutes to ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time that you and your team had a conversation about ethics?
  2. When was the last time that you validated your strategy to see if it was ethical?
  3. Which of your own leadership behaviors or lack thereof could lead others around you to commit a white collar crime?

If any of these questions inspire you to do something different, please let me know. I would love to hear your stories.

Image Courtesy of Pexels