Bringing Ethics Back to Business Through Effective Management

The prominent Bob Diamond has quit as Chief Executive of Barclays -- the second scalp to be claimed by the interest rigging scandal in 36 hours. In an interesting twist, however, Marcus Agius, who resigned as Chairman yesterday, has now been appointed to the role of executive chairman. Barclays' leadership is in crisis mode. The public, shareholders, politicians and business leaders demanded heads roll and now there is a focus for collective condemnation after a week of arguments about who knew what and where the buck stops.

I'm sure this won't be an end to the ferocious debate about how endemic this most recently exposed wave of corruption in the sector is. But, the obsession with finger pointing means we're failing to consider fully the real issues -- which are much more deep seated and complex than simply clearing out those leading the U.K.'s biggest financial powerhouses.

While change at the top is obviously needed, the recent revelations are a firm indictment of what happens when those managing businesses don't adhere to professional standards, follow a code of conduct or have any sort of qualification indicating they are fit to lead an organisation. In cultures where the pressure is high and the potential financial rewards astronomic, this creates confusion about what is acceptable and where boundaries lie.

As a result, this kind of bad management is damaging British business and U.K. plc. We see this in the recent spate of scandals involving not only the bank but the pharmaceutical companies and the media. Employees have no sense of what's right and wrong because the managers and leaders don't work to strong ethical standards. The public simply doesn't trust big business anymore -- why should they? We need to put the ethics back into management.

At CMI, raising professional standards is at the heart of what we do. Our members must work to a code of conduct and ethics, signing up to practice with integrity. We know this has a positive impact on organisational performance and reputation. I believe organizations should achieve a hallmark of excellence in management and leadership; a kitemark or standard with integrity and adherence to a code of ethics at its heart which they are signed up to and which is annually reviewed.

U.K. business, and the City in particular, has a 'nice guys finish last' culture. They don't. They just do things that are right as well as making best business sense. These are the leaders who have the most engaged employees, the most productive organisations and, ultimately, the most high-performing bottom lines. It's not a case of social responsibility -- it's about everyone taking individual responsibility to set an example in management, and reap the many business benefits this brings.