Business ethics: Leadership lessons from the US Navy

October 27, 2009

steven romanoMore times than not, media reports tell us that government spending is rife with fraud and waste. While those stories deserve attention, it’s easy to lose sight of people in government who really are conscientious stewards of U.S. taxpayers’ money. Rear Admiral Steven J. Romano (right) is one of them. Romano is the commander and chief executive officer for the Navy Exchange Service Command in Virginia Beach, Va. He also overseas Navy Exchange System, or NEX, a Wal-Mart type store for military members. While most NEX associates are honest and trustworthy, there have been a number of fraud cases lately, and Romano is putting a stop to them.

I learned about all this recently when I was invited to speak to a group of U.S. Navy personnel in Norfolk, Va. The invitation came on the heels of a campaign, “Stop Fraud,” that Romano recently announced. I was impressed to learn the campaign is aimed at improving associate awareness and training, expanding process reviews, and using continuous process improvements to mitigate risks. That campaign, and Romano’s leadership in it, speaks volumes to the importance of leading with top down ethics. That’s a fundamental foundation for any organization.

So, here’s a question for you — and you don’t have to be in the Navy to think it over: As a business leader, would your employees say you’re leading with top down ethics? And what actions are you taking to demonstrate that?

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