TEC Canada | Leadership Development for the Thinking CEO

The code of the west: Cowboy Ethics in Business

Chairman and CEO, Jim Davidson

FirstEnergy Capital

”We have been in an era of individualism, but not individual responsibility, and we must now make sure that these ethics are implemented into our own actions, our companies’ actions, and our industry’s actions.”

At FirstEnergy’s annual celebration, CEO, Chairman and TEC member Jim Davidson, made an impactful speech on “cowboy ethics.” With the Calgary Stampede’s 100th anniversary quickly approaching, he noted that now is the perfect opportunity to consider and engage in this behaviour.

Davidson pointed out that ethical behaviours begin with one’s own interpretation or belief, and uses the two definitions of success as an example:

The first defines it as the attainment of wealth and honour, while the second describes success as achieving something planned, desired or attempted.

As the global economy continues to be uncertain leaders and their companies need to be even more cautious of their behaviour and actions.As was highlighted by the GFC, when ethics and good judgement are traded for greed, the choices that people or companies make affect all of us – even the innocent in the matter.

Davidson said we need to re-evaluate our behaviours by going back to our roots. We should adopt the code of the west – cowboy ethics: The unwritten rules comprised by the founders of the west that are based on spirit, respect and honour.

“There is a parallel between western ways and investment banking.” They both take risks and are accountable for the results they deliver. The code of the west is a code of honour and truthfulness with messages that are simple and stand the test of time.

A summary of Jim Davidson’s key points follows, and you can watch the full video at http://jetvision.tv/video.aspx?playerID=326&videoID=57515

  • Live each day with courage:  Courage without the need for glory and recognition. Reach beyond yourself and put fear aside to get things done. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
  • Take pride in your work: Do your best and take the time to recognize the work others take pride in.
  • Always finish what you start: When things are toughest give it your all and chose to work harder and smarter when faced with challenges.
  • Do what has to be done: Rely on your principles when issues arise, not when it is too late. Ask yourself, “Is this right?”
  • Be tough, be fair: “Do onto others as they would do onto you.” Implement a level of toughness but demand the ultimate fairness for all.
  • When you make a promise, keep it: Whether it is beneficial to both parties or requires additional work. Develop trust and be someone others can count on in good times and in bad.
  • Ride for the brand: Be loyal to those who support you. You represent yourself and the brand of the company you work for; in every action you take, all day every day.
  • Talk less and say more: When there is nothing more to say, don’t say anything. Listen first and communicate effectively second.
  • Remember some things aren’t for sale: The best things in life aren’t things; they are experiences and connections.
  • Know where to draw the line: Rules can be bent, principles cannot. There is no substitution for personal principles. Focus on what is right.

Upholding these standards is not something you do once a month or on occasion. It is a mindset and a way of life. It is in our DNA and our moral fibre.

3 Responses to “The code of the west: Cowboy Ethics in Business”

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