This quote from the January 31 NY Times, “The company seeks the most accomplished and competent people for the job” is from a company spokesperson for J&J. It’s in defense of the hiring of Andrew Ekdahl to head their hip replacement business. The problem is that Mr. Ekdahl is lacking THE premiere quality of all executives and particularly CFOs: Integrity.
Ekdahl knowingly promoted the sale and implantation of faulty hips into roughly 100,000 patients. This is more than a slight slip up; it’s morally and ethically reprehensible. He may have been accomplished (good sales guy?) and competent (at lying?), but he certainly was not acting with integrity.
A definition that sets the bar
The definition of integrity is easy to find, but I like this one: a firm adherence to a code of moral values: incorruptibility (Merriam Webster). Other definitions use similar words like honesty, being whole, consistency of actions.
The question remains, how do we discover the true level of integrity in another person? It’s pretty easy when you know someone over the course of years. It’s actually apparent when you play a round of golf with someone! But how do you flush this all-important quality out when you are considering them for an executive position in your company?
I don’t propose that the need for “high integrity” is not just for the CFO; in a perfect world, the entire C-suite and their direct reports would get A+ for integrity. I do maintain that because the CFO has a fiduciary responsibility (the bar in a capitalistic society), CFOs are naturally forced into deciding between difficult, competing interests on a daily and quarterly basis. So if you are an investor or head an organization, the number one quality you should look for in a CFO is integrity.
There are many other qualities that one must consider in hiring a CFO, and I will cover these in future posts. If you want to know how the CFOs I consistently place with clients are screened for their integrity, call me, Dave Arnold at 408-205-7373.