Above the Board – How Ethical CEOs Create Honest Corporations Essay

Above the Board – How Ethical CEOs Create Honest Corporations

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            The book entitled “Above the Board – How Ethical CEOs Create Honest Corporations” is a magnificent book written by Lorene Hiris, Patrizia Porrini and Gina Poncini. It is merely composed of interviews from various business leaders who made their way in creating successful corporations and industries. The book serves as an inspiration for promising business enthusiasts who wanted to gain more knowledge on how important corporate values are in every organization.  The seven chapters of the book are full of juicy information that can be applied not only in the field of business but in life in general. The challenge of building honest corporations is the main concern of the book.

            Corporate ethics is an essential element that will enable business leaders to govern their respective organizations. The integrity and values possessed by a businessman will make him survive the complications of the business arena. In Above the Board, the testimonies made by various business leaders are not limited to their own perspectives. It also deals with their contributions in establishing corporate values and how they made several reinforcements to customers, stakeholders and shareholders.

            Since the main theme of the book is Ethics, one can view that it is indeed the most powerful component that makes a business succeed. Business becomes an object of media’s attention whenever something unethical or immoral event occurs. One minor moral misjudgment made against an organization will enable its downfall. An ethical misconduct covers physical, social and psychological aspects of both the doer and the receiver.  It is of great importance for every corporate employee to imply honesty and integrity because these things are directly connected to success and growth.

The authors of the book made a deep research regarding all the aforementioned statements by covering stories of CEOs who care deeply about ethical behavior. Further discussion of their views, stories, initiative and implementation of ethical standards were also given. The book asserts that CEO is synonymous to a father that leads and guides the whole family. It is the main responsibility of the CEO to foster a more ethical business climate. Concrete examples are given in order to make things clear to readers. It offers more cases of ethics in action and how CEOs maintain ethical energy amidst problems and difficulties.

“Underlying the words “value” and integrity” is an honest, open and trusting relationship between employee and employer, between individual and one another” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008, p. 5). A clearer emphasis on this made readers aware that mutual trust is vital in every organization. Nurturing both integrity and value in business is considered as both privilege and challenge that all leaders must carry out. Building respect in every business community also includes setting high standards and acting on values.

Bernauer’s leadership on the company Walgreens is one good example in the book when it comes to building honest organization. The pages allotted for the story behind the success of the company is based on the techniques of the great CEO and how he deals with his employees. He always trust his people and links past events with the present and even with the future. Hiring people which are smarter than him is not a threat. This is because he believes that each employee is given the privilege to excel and do his part in leading the company towards progress (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008, p.6-10). Worrying about reports is a big no for every leader. One must acknowledge the capabilities of his employees because it is one way of letting them function autonomously. This attitude attracts positivism in the company because no doubt is at hand when it comes to employee performance. It builds strong integrity with both employee and employer.

Trusting people leads to fulfillment. This is proven in the book because it will cost lest time in checking on activities of employees every now and then. The primary responsibility of a leader is to build leaders who will succeed today’s top management and teams ((Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008, p. 10). The mission statement of Walgreen is an inspirational one especially for people who dreams big in the business world. “We believe in the goods we merchandise, in ourselves, and in our ability to render satisfaction, We believe that honest goods can be sold to honest people by honest methods” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008, p. 10).

Media often view CEO as a person who is placed on the highest position of an organization and spends the whole day by just looking after the company’s profit. The book made a contrasting idea about this. It pointed out several things that made the responsibility of a CEO a tough job. Being a CEO is never easy because you will undergo a long way before reaching the position. It is not only considered as a privilege but a challenge as well. “Being the CEO of a major organization means giving more attention to your organization’s values and principles, especially in light of the changes of corporate landscape wrought by high profile scandals” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008, p. 11). In most cases CEOs acts not only in functional aspects but also in pastoral aspects. This is done by supporting the moral development of employees and motivating them to serve the company in ethical and moral ways.

Most parts of the book is focused on emphasizing ethics in business. Several CEOs also shared their insights about the best business concepts that will allow ethics to flourish.

Company Values and Stories

Among the many CEOs who shared their stories with the authors of the book, one thing remains constant with their answers: how they based their companies on ethical foundations. By retelling stories over and over CEOs establishes corporate history based on ethical concepts. Most organizations succeed because of recognizing past achievements and applying essential elements to present business deals. The book also suggest that “CEO needs to recognize that the company’s history and traditions represent valuable building blocks that can make powerful points when they are illustrated through company narratives” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008). CEO’s should adopt this strategy from the book in order to fire up the relationship of employees with their respective corporate histories so that the growth of the organization will continuously evolve.

Creating Ethical Buy-In

Another good point of discussion in the book is how CEO’s manage to encourage employees question, develop and share sets of values. This is a way of creating “employee buy-in for a culture of ethics” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008). Interaction is important because it means that there is transparency between employee and employer when it comes to effective ethical climate.

Communicating the Challenges of Building an Honest Organization

Chapter 2 of the book presents CEO insights who survived the challenges of their organizations. Every mistake committed made them stronger since they were able to eliminate those pitfalls and strive harder not to do that again. Building an honest organization is never easy “whether their specific difficulty was establishing an ethical identity or facing an industry-specific challenge that threatened their company’s reputational capital” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008). It is amazing that the authors managed to conduct interviews with CEOs who are willing to share their most sough challenges in business. Readers were able to gain inspirational lessons that will boost their integrity for the organization.

Harnessing Ethical Energy, Creating a Climate of Excitement about Ethics and Keeping Ethics Alive

 Regardless of code of conducts and ethical statements in every company, it will not take effect if employees were not able to put all these into practice. CEO being the supreme head of the organization must “recognize the effectiveness of mixed modes and different channels to spread their company’s word” (Porrini, Hiris & Poncini, 2008).

CEOs are also seen first with the enthusiasm and excitement about ethics. In order to establish honest corporations, leading by example is a must. Chapters 3 and 4 of the book put more focus on how CEOs ensure that their employees are motivated and inspired by corporate missions. Shared values are also a key point in building a stronger organization.

The last 3 chapters of the book ensure that ethics is maintained and unwavering. This means that corporate ethical exercises are ongoing. Ethical campaigns are timeless because it drives the company all through generations.


            Above the Board is a must read not only for CEOs but for all people from all walks of life. In order to succeed, the primary element is ethics. It is the foundation of integrity and trust. The book is a very helpful tool to employees who seek for practices, approaches and procedures that comes from personal experiences. Readers will be inspired and at the same time motivated because it comes from CEOs of well known companies lie Xerox, Walgreens, Whirlpool, P & G and Texas Instruments. It will nurture ethics, corporate values and honesty for every organization for the past, present and future generations.


Porrini, P, Hiris, L & Poncini, G. (2008). Above the Board – How Ethical CEOs Create

Honest Corporations. NY: Mc Graw-Hill Publications.

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