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We at Korn Ferry are privileged to serve as the largest provider of executive search services in the world. With decades of experience working closely with boards of directors, senior level executives and HR leaders to drive performance through an organization’s talent roster, we proudly host the history, expertise, and intellectual property to find candidates of the uppermost caliber, those who relentlessly strive to uphold the highest of professional standards.

As we have all witnessed over the past 2½ years, the world – especially the labor market in which we operate – has fundamentally changed. These changes have greatly affected what companies and other organizations are now looking for in their C-suite executives.

Based on our years of experience, here is what we know - In 2022, there is a salient call to action for ethical leadership from within the business community, from the recruitment process to day-to-day operations to shareholder accountability.

This is not a passing trend and will reshape ‘business as usual’ for the foreseeable future.

Case in point and on the backdrop of an unprecedented American impetus for talent acquisition and retention - What candidates for senior‑level executive positions themselves presently look for in companies during their job searches has changed. As important as ethical leadership has been in the past, this is now more significant than ever as a criterion in the selection process for business leaders.

Consumers, shareholders, employees, and the communities in which they operate now look to companies for true ethical leadership to navigate through the extraordinary challenges of our time, with a premium on, for example, equity and equality. Those pressing issues are built into our search process as we help recruit candidates who will make a difference to organizations and in the world.

In light of this heightened priority for many businesses and organizations, Korn Ferry applauds the commitment of organizations such as the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, ensuring that future business leaders are well prepared for and committed to values-based decision making based on the principles of ethical leadership exemplified by MCI CEO Bill McGowan as he built one of the great telecommunications companies. 

The McGowan Fund has performed a great service, in our view, by investing in and partnering with ten of the nation’s leading universities to demonstrate the value of immersing MBA students in those principles of ethical leadership through the example set by their Fellows Program. Their experience over the past decade has demonstrated that MBA students are responsive to using principles and values-based decision making to guide their business leader training.

The McGowan Fund further hosts plans to engage MBA programs and other business leadership programs to consider formally adopting and embedding these principles in their curricula to reach a broader range of students. This is no question, the right approach, built for our modern age.

In addition, this year the McGowan Fund unveiled the first-ever Ethical Leader of the Year Award, which they plan to make an annual event. The first such award was presented at the opening session in front of 15,000+ attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Annual Conference in New Orleans. The award highlighted Prudential Financial’s longstanding CEO Charles Lowrey, who, we agree, exemplifies, and embodies ethical leadership in his business leadership role. We were pleased to have one of our own senior leaders serving as a national Judge on the selection committee to make the final decision.    

We have operated in the arena of ‘executive search’ for a very long time. In that time, we have seen fundamental changes in how organizations approach recruiting and guiding their C-suite executives in achieving their goals. Now, some trends have come and gone over time, reflecting specific moments in the nation’s culture, history, and society. But in our judgment, the new expectation of values-based decision making, and ethical leadership is here to stay.

Stakeholders of all organizations not only expect but are requiring new levels of ethical leadership, and they will hold business leaders accountable. 


Joe Grisedieck is Vice Chairman at Korn Ferry. 

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