Leighton Lectures

About the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

About: The Purpose Behind the Leighton Lecture

The Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership is made possible through the generous contribution of alumni Richard and Grace Leighton in 1997. The Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society, along with Gies College of Business, host this lecture annually in conjunction with Business 101.

Each year, the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership provides an important opportunity for Gies students and faculty, along with other campus and community members, to hear distinguished perspectives on the critical nature of ethics and leadership in today’s world. The Center hosts this lecture each year because Dick Leighton had a variety of work experiences—not all of them positive—that convinced him students should have the chance to learn from business leaders who manage their businesses with a strong and visible sense of ethics and professional responsibility.

Mr. Leighton’s commitment, as a graduate of Gies, is to ensure that future generations of students engage with business leaders who conduct their business in an ethical manner. He hopes students learn that the negative media headlines about business and its leaders do not represent the gold standard of business conduct. Mr. Leighton encourages students to practice professional responsibility in their lives. That’s what the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership is all about, and that’s why Mr. Leighton asked that this opportunity be incorporated into Gies’ signature class on professional responsibility and leadership — Business 101.

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About: Dick Leighton

Mr. Leighton graduated from the University of Illinois Gies College of Business (then the College of Commerce) with a B.S. in Accountancy in 1949. Shortly thereafter, he served in the US Air Force in 1951-1953. For much of his career, he worked as the Senior Vice President of Finance at Barber-Colman Company until 1988. Since then, Mr. Leighton has continued to give back and support the community including as a trustee on the Barber-Colman Foundation. Mr Leighton and his late wife Grace first met as students at Urbana High School. Together they established the Richard T. and Grace H. Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership Endowment which has enabled Gies to provide annual lectures since 1997.

Learn more about Dick Leighton below!

    Larry Gies challenges students to ‘trust your voice’ to have an impact.

    View the Webinar Recording Here>>

    25th Anniversary of the Leighton Lecture

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    At the 25th anniversary of the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership, Larry Gies (ACCY ‘88) challenged young executives to trust their voice early in their careers when faced with ethical issues or leadership opportunities.

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    “Most of the great business pivots come from a young person who says, ‘This doesn’t seem right. I don’t feel comfortable. Why don’t we try a different way?’” said Gies, founder of Madison Industries, one of the largest and most successful privately held companies in the world.

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    “It's those people who have been around for a while who will let something slip by,” he added. “And there's always a young person or two around who raises the red flag and says ‘Here's a problem’. True leadership is about listening to others and making decisions based on diverse perspectives.”

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    Hosted by Gies College of Business and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the virtual event drew more than 850 students. It is part of Business 101, the College’s signature class for first-year students on professional responsibility and leadership.

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    The Leighton Lecture was held on Oct. 26, the fourth anniversary of the naming of Gies College of Business. Larry Gies and his wife Beth pledged a $150 million on that date in 2017 to accelerate progress toward Gies being recognized as the best and most innovative business school on the planet.

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    Young Voices in Action

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    Gies used the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in 2020 as an example of young voices pushing our country to address violence based on bias and discrimination. It was a number of young people in his company and in the classroom who helped him address these issues head-on to find peaceful and meaningful ways to bring equity to all.

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    “I find it’s the younger voices that push us,” Gies said. “We flipped the common thinking in our company from ‘If you believe, you belong’ to starting with ‘You belong, regardless of your beliefs.’ Our strength lies in our differences, and this helps us make the world safer, healthier and more productive.”

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    And then he challenged the students to have the courage to step up and be heard within their organizations.

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    “Don't ever think you don't have the right to say something when you know it doesn't feel right – because if it doesn't feel right, guess what, it's probably not right,” he said.

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    “Make sure you raise that red flag. Make sure when there's a leadership opportunity, you step up. Don't worry about your age. Don't worry about experience. Trust your voice, have an impact on the world, and beautiful things will happen.”

    About the Leighton Lectures

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    “At Gies, we believe that a strong foundation in ethics and leadership is a critical piece of the educational experience and that it's essential to enable our students to follow their passion and bring value to society through business,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, the Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean of Gies College of Business.

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    The Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership is made possible through the generous contribution of alumni Richard (Dick) and Grace Leighton 25 years ago. It is an annual opportunity for Gies students and faculty, along with other campus and community members, to hear distinguished perspectives on the critical nature of ethics and leadership in today’s world. As a business leader himself, Gies alumnus Dick Leighton saw the positive consequences of business dealings conducted with a strong sense of professional responsibility and ethical leadership. He also saw the negative consequences to individuals and organizations when that was not the case.

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    Dick’s commitment is to be sure future generations of students hear from business leaders who conduct their business in an ethical manner and learn what it means to take the high road and to practice professional responsibility in their lives. That’s what the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership is all about, and that’s why Dick asked that this opportunity be incorporated into Gies’ signature class on professional responsibility and leadership— Business 101.

    Leadership is Not a Destination. Leadership is a Journey.

    View the Webinar Recording Here>>

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    On November 11, Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr., gave the 2020 Leighton Lecture in Ethics and leadership. For the first time in its 25-year history, the Leighton Lecture was presented virtually over Zoom. An executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners and a clinical professor of management and strategy in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Kraemer focused his lecture on values-based leadership.

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    “Leadership has nothing to do with titles and organizational charts,” Kraemer said. “It has to do with being able to influence people. And the only way I know how to influence people is to relate to people.”

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    For Kraemer, the essence of leadership is combining an ability and an intention to relate to people with a clear set of personal values. “Leadership is not a destination. Leadership is a journey,” he told the more than 770 individuals from around the world who listened in on the lecture. “Every day I’m given, I can be better than the day before. If I can focus on what I can do to be a better values-based leader, that will make all the difference in the years ahead.”

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    In developing into a values-based leader, Kraemer sees four simple, yet key, principles: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.

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    Self-reflection for Kraemer is the first on the list because it is the most important. To be a values-based leader means to take time to look back and evaluate your actions and decisions. Kraemer advocated turning off electronic devices and taking the quiet time to ask some essential questions:

    • What are my values?

    • What’s my purpose?

    • What really matters?

    • What kind of leader do I want to be?

    • What kind of example do I want to set for others?

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    These can help a person prioritize actions and prepare for future challenges.

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    Balance refers to intentionally striving to understand all sides of a question. Knowing why others believe as they do may help in determining the best course of action.

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    True self-confidence is essential for leaders, said Kraemer. To determine whether you have true self confidence or arrogance, leaders should ask themselves the following questions:

    • Have you reached a point in your life where you’re comfortable saying, “I don’t know”?

    • Have you reached a point in your life where you’re comfortable saying, “I was wrong”?

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    Most people, said Kraemer, cannot relate to people who have never made mistakes. A willingness to admit error and to be able to look to others for help is an important skill for a values-based leader. A strong leader with true self-confidence can build a team where someone – regardless of the issue –will be able to figure out the answer in order to help the team as a whole.

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    Genuine humility is an important part of leadership. It is difficult to relate to and be influenced by an egomaniac, Kraemer said. A good way to develop and express genuine humility is to look back and recognize those who helped you on your career journey – teachers, mentors, and others who provided assistance beyond your own hard work. No one can do it on their own, and recognition of that is crucial for a values-based leader.

    Kraemer’s talk was fast paced, informative, and thought-provoking. At the end, he summarized his suggestions for the lecture attendees: take some time alone, turn off the noise, and give yourself the ability to think about truly important values.

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    About Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr.

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    Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. is an executive partner with Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm based in Chicago, Illinois and a clinical professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s. In 2008 Kraemer was named the Kellogg School Professor of the Year.

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    He is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International Inc., a $12 billion global healthcare company. His 23-year career at Baxter began in accounting and included senior positions in both domestic and international operations.

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    He is the author of two bestselling leadership books: From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership and Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership. His newest book, published in 2020, is Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life.

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    About the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

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    The Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership is sponsored by the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society and Gies College of Business. This lecture series is underwritten by generous contributions from Richard (’49) and Grace (’50) Leighton.

    2019 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    Gnazzo Brings the 2019 Leighton Lecture Directly to Students

    View the Session 1 Recording Here>>

    View the Session 2 Recording Here>>

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Patrick Gnazzo, Principal at Better Business Practices LLC. The lecture titled “Business and Ethics are Like Oil and Vinegar” was presented November 13.

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    Gnazzo, left, is accompanied by Leighton and Winter respectively

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    “Ethics is an overlay on business, like vinegar is an overlay on oil. They go together. They make things better. But they don’t mix.”

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    That was the message delivered by Patrick J. Gnazzo, the featured speaker for the 2019 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership. Gnazzo is the founder and principal at Better Business Practices LLC, a company that provides independent, executive leadership and assessments of ethics and compliance programs. He also serves as an appointed corporate monitor and has been a corporate ethics and compliance officer.

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    His topic was “Business and Ethics are Like Oil and Vinegar.” In explaining his title, Gnazzo added, “Ethics and business don’t mix because people destroy ethics, and they destroy business.” As Gnazzo described, not everyone in a company chooses the right direction or in the direction suggested by company values. Gnazzo, who has extensive experience in corporate ethics and compliance for domestic and international businesses, moved away from the standard lecture format and literally brought questions of ethics and compliance home to the students: walking among the seats at the Lincoln Hall Theater, asking questions directly to students, and challenging them to examine ethical business dilemmas and articulate a response.

    Gnazzo explained that companies usually have a stated set of core values that define the company mission and how it tries to achieve that mission. The mission can encompass a number of goals: make more money, fulfill a business plan, or expand to a new region or country. The difficulty, Gnazzo said, “is that along the way, people look for shortcuts.”

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    Gnazzo moved away from the standard lecture format and literally brought questions of ethics and compliance home to the students: walking among the seats at the Lincoln Hall Theater.

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    Helping employees to recognize and avoid shortcuts that create legal problems or result in ethical lapses is the task of the ethics and compliance officer. Gnazzo provided several examples from his career and noted that his most frequent suggestion to employees was to refer back to the company’s core values. “The job of the ethics and compliance officer is to be the voice of those core values. Whatever the company is espousing as its values, it’s the job of the ethics and compliance officer to remind people of those values,” he said.

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    The Leighton Lecture was just one of several activities Gnazzo participated in during his November 13 visit to Illinois. He met with students in the Business Ethics Academy and with other student groups, including Business and Environmental Responsibility, a registered student organization. He also participated in a video interview for a forthcoming video series on Business Ethics Pioneers, a project initiated and coordinated by the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.

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    Gnazzo is an Executive Fellow at Bentley College's Center for Business Ethics, a former member of the Procurement Round Table, and was a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Contract Management Association. He formerly served on the boards of directors for MCR, LLC, the Ethics Resource Center, and the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association. He also spent time as chairman of the Defense Industry Initiative working group, and he is a frequent lecturer on ethics and compliance.

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    Prior to founding Better Business Practices LLC, Gnazzo was the senior vice president and general manager of CA Technologies’ Public Sector business. His first job at CA Technologies was as chief compliance officer, with responsibility for developing and implementing a comprehensive compliance and ethics program. Prior to CA, he spent 20 years at United Technologies Corporation, the last 10 as chief compliance officer. He began his career in the US Navy’s Office of the General Counsel. His last position there was associate general counsel, chief trial attorney, and director of the US Department of the Navy’s litigation division.

    2018 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    Leighton Lecture Speaker Connects Her Soul With Her Role

    View the Recording Here>>

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion at Northern Trust. The lecture titled “A Conversation of Consequence” was presented on Wednesday, November 7 at 6pm and 7pm.

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    For more than nine years, Connie L. Lindsey has used a simple, yet powerful, motivation to guide her work as Northern Trust’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion.

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    “At this point in my career, I have the pleasure of connecting my soul with my role,” Lindsey said.

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    On November 7, Lindsey delivered a message to nearly 1,000 Business 101 students at the 2018 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership held at the Lincoln Hall Theatre.

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    “The Leighton Lecture is an integral aspect of our college, because at Gies College of Business we empower students to transform big ideas into action,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean. “Having a strong guiding principle in ethics and leadership will help each of our students leave their mark and make a difference this way.

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    “We are delighted to have Connie here because of the many ways she has made a positive impact at Northern Trust.”

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    Within the 129-year old company, Lindsey is responsible for the design and implementation of Northern Trust’s approach to corporate social responsibility, community development and investments, as well as global diversity and inclusion. As of September 30, 2018, Northern Trust had $10.8 trillion in assets under custody/administration, $8.2 trillion in assets under custody, $1.2 trillion in assets under management, $132 billion in banking assets, and over 18,000 employees globally.

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    Lindsey’s oversight includes the development of goals, policies, and programs appropriate to the brand and business unit strategies. She is also involved in the firm’s response to environmental matters and social issues within the marketplace, workplace and the community.

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    Her “Conversation of Consequence” at the Leighton Lecture tied all of Lindsey’s experiences together so that Gies Business students could better understand how to approach the issues of social responsibility and diversity once they enter the workforce—and in their studies with Business 101 at Gies College of Business.

    Lindsey began by defining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a “business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social, and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.”

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    Lindsey said that, as a company with a long term commitment in this area, Northern Trust’s CSR statement reflects its views.

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    An interactive portion of Lindsey’s presentation asked a full theatre of students to use their phone and share a list of companies they admire.

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    “Northern Trust values CSR as an essential element of our mission and culture,” Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Grady has stated. “Our stakeholders expect us to be responsible stewards of the company’s resources, balancing appropriate levels of prudence and risk to create value. We take that responsibility seriously, as demonstrated through our commitment to Achieve Greater through our CSR strategy.”

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    Lindsey reports directly to O’Grady.

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    To bring strategic focus to this work at the Northern Trust, Lindsey’s team adopted key performance indicators that align with four of the Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations.

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    Core aspects refers to Northern Trust’s focus on corporate operations. An example includes the company’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 25%, and another is to increase the number of suppliers that are screened against environmental and social criteria.

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    Sustainable products & services objectives include formalizing their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing philosophy and continuing to evolve proxy voting policies and practice to capture emergent ESG risks.

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    Shared value, as defined by Professors Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer of the Harvard Business School, is Northern Trust’s goal to generate economic value in a way that also produces value for society. In conjunction with this objective, the Northern aims to remain in the top quartile of charitable giving amongst peers and to increase volunteer hours by 5% each year through 2020.

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    Employees are the fourth area of focus. The company’s goal is to recruit, retain, and develop diverse talent. Lindsey also described the design and accomplishments of the Northern Trust’s 11 Business Resource Councils, which support employees in all aspects of appreciating and incorporating diversity at work—including, for example, early career professionals, LGBT, disability, military experience, belief, gender and race.

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    “Our commitment to ethical business practices is a constant,” Lindsey said. “Reputational risk and significant damage to organizations is a consequence that is mitigated by a strong CSR practice comprised of transparency and accountability.”

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    And she posed one question that should linger in the minds of attendees that night, especially as Gies Business students prepare to set similar tones for companies in the future.

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    “What will you, as a future leader, determine is essential to your company’s growth in social responsibility and diversity?”

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    Lindsey’s presentation concluded after a conversation with Gretchen Winter and a Q&A session with students.

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    After her speech, Lindsey was joined on stage by Gretchen Winter, executive director at the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society within Gies Business. In tandem with course director Larry DeBrock, dean emeritus and professor of Finance and professor of Economics, Winter helps shape the Business 101 course.

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    Before this session concluded with a question-and-answer session with students, Winter asked Lindsey to describe how applicants are evaluated and then hired at the Northern Trust. Lindsey noted that it was important to exhibit the company’s core values during the interviewing process and throughout one’s employment.

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    “Of course the Northern Trust is an entity, but what makes our core values come alive are our people,” Lindsey said. “We remain devoted to service, expertise, and integrity. How we demonstrate this to the community reflects on each and every one of us individually.”

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    Lindsey not only spoke as part of the lecture, but also remained engaged on Thursday. Her day started with a breakfast that included Dean Brown, Dick Leighton, and Winter; a meeting with faculty at BIF, and a lunch/discussion with Enrichment Academy and Business Honors students, among others.

    2017 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Olivia N. Graham, Ethics Advisor for the International Monetary Fund and former military attorney, who delivered her speech “An Ethics Road Map: The Role of the Ethics Office in International Organizations.”

    Session 1 Recording:  watch video

    Session 2 Recording:  watch video

    The 2017 Leighton Lecture was featured in the International Monetary Fund’s Ethics Office Annual Report, on page 12, which can be found here.

    2016 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    The Gray Area is Where the Action Is

    View the Recording Here>>

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Diane Nobles, former Vice President and Chief Ethics and Privacy Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance and a leader in global ethics and compliance leader who delivered her speech “Ethics, Leadership, and Stories from the Front.”

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    On November 17, 2016, Diane Nobles spoke in front of a packed room of students eager to hear her stories of a career in the area of business ethics and corporate compliance. As the 2016 speaker for the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership, Nobles gave a talk titled “Ethics, Leadership, and Stories from the Front.”

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    Nobles got into corporate compliance initially not because it was where she wanted to be, but because it was a position that her company needed to establish. And she seemed the person for the job. Though initially reluctant, she accepted the challenge and went about setting up this new office of compliance at her company.

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    She starting doing research, attending conferences, and speaking with new colleagues in what was a fairly small field at the time. As she did so, Nobles discovered that she really enjoyed the position and came to appreciate its importance within a corporate culture. She also learned that it was not an isolating position. “It wasn’t just me and my compliance department,” she said. “I had to know the business. I had to form very strong working relationships with audit, with finance, with human resources—with other partner functions that were going to help me deliver and reinforce the message that I was trying to send.”

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    In an early experience in corporate compliance, Nobles was working at a company that negotiated with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of companies that were providing a self-funded insurance option. As part of that, committees decided which drugs go on the drug formulary to determine which are fully covered or have some cost associated with them. This committee included people who actually negotiated with the manufacturers. Nobles felt there was a conflict in that decisions could be made based on what drug selections provide the most benefit to the company versus those that are most appropriate to treating the disease. She felt these committees should be made up solely of clinicians with no vested interest in the final decision.

    It was not that the process was illegal—it wasn’t. It was that Nobles felt that it did not reflect well on the company and that it could be a problem in the future. She ended up meeting with the CEO, who agreed and changed the company’s policy. Just a few years later, many companies did indeed get in trouble because of similar actions. Nobles’ did not.

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    “Without trust, my CEO would never have listened to me all those years ago about how we put drugs on that list,” Nobles said. “But he believed I was competent. He knew I had integrity. He knew I had the best interests of the company at heart. It was not about me, it was about the company, and ultimately the shareholders.”

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    Nobles also discussed the recent problems facing Volkswagen and Wells Fargo—both stemming from a breakdown in an understanding of how a corporate culture should behave ethically. Nobles said, “I think sometimes making decisions based on short-term gain is where you are going to run into some ethical problems. You have to be able to look further out than a quarter or two quarters or a year down the road.”

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    Nobles also shared a decision-making model that she developed after first getting into the area of corporate compliance. The model works on the acronym TRUST:

    Think about the situation.

    Recognize and analyze the motivations.

    Understand what the rules and regulations are.

    Satisfy the headline test.

    Take action.

    The headline test, as Nobles described it, means that if you woke up in the morning and your decision was on the front page of the New York Times, how would you feel? “That’s a really quick, down and dirty way to see if you can get comfortable with whether you are in the right

    place,” she said.

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    And when poor decisions are made, it’s not often a sign of poor corporate culture. “Most companies really do want to get it right,” said Nobles. “They’re not out there intentionally trying to do things unethically or illegally. . . . Some of them do some incredibly stupid things. But some of them are really just trying to work their way through what is ultimately a gray area.”

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    For Nobles, a decision-making model like the one she presented one can help employees and companies determine how they should proceed in an ethical manner. The decisions may not be easy. As Nobles explained, “The gray area is where the action is. If it’s black or white, it’s pretty easy. Most of the stuff is in the gray area, and knowing how to navigate your way through that gray is where all the action takes place.”

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    Nobles’ lecture reflected strongly on her 30-year career in ethics, compliance, privacy, and corporate governance. Over the course of that distinguished legal and corporate career, she worked for such multinational companies as Dow Chemical, Baxter Healthcare, Caremark, CVS, and BP. She has worked directly with corporate CEOs and boards of directors to provide strategic leadership to companies in the areas of governance, ethics, and compliance. Most recently, she was with Walgreens, where she served as Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer.

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    The Leighton Lecture Series is sponsored by the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society and the College of Business. This lecture series is underwritten by generous contributions from Richard (’49) and Grace (’50) Leighton.

    2015 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Center Fellow, Joan Dubinsky, for Chief Ethics Officer of the United Nations who delivered her speech “Doing Ethics in an Imperfect World: The United Nations Experience.” read biography | watch video

    2013 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Bill O’Rourke, Executive Director of the Beard Institute at Duquesne University and former Chief Executive of Alcoa Russia who delivered his talk on “Does Your Moral Compass Point to True North?” watch video | view slides

    2012 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Keith Darcy, Executive Director of the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association (ECOA) who delivered his talk on “Managing Organizational Integrity in an Age of Texts, Tweets & WikiLeaks.”  view slides | watch video

    2011 Ethics in Action: Leighton Lecture Hosts Bart Schwartz, Corporate Monitor

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    “In most cases, it is not a company-wide problem that causes an ethical issue, it is the activity of a few individuals,” explains Bart Schwartz, chairman and CEO of SolutionPoint International, LLC, and recent speaker at the ILLINOIS Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership.

    2010 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    This year’s Leighton Lecture featured Andy Milnes, head of supply and trading for BP America who delivered his talk on “Ethical Leadership as a Competitive Advantage.” In his presentation, he spoke from personal experience, detailing a compliance issue at BP and the company’s actions and recovery.

    2009 Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership

    UI Grad Returns Home With Strong Message About Personal Responsibility

    Rita Kahle (’78) returned to the University of Illinois as part of the Leighton Lecture Series that was co-sponsored by the College of Business and the Center. Richard (’49) and Grace (’50) Leighton, the generous sponsors of this series, attended Kahle’s lecture and were recognized for their foresight in creating the ethics-based format.

    August 16, 2007, is a day Rita Kahle (’78) will never forget. On this day, the executive vice president of Ace Hardware Corporation watched as her company—revered for being “helpful”—became “helpless” in the wake of a significant accounting error.

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    Less than a month later, it was confirmed that a material error related to inventory accounting caused a $152 million fiscal shortfall. “Mistakes happen,” Kahle, a 23-year veteran of the Ace corporation, told business students during her presentation as part of the Leighton Lecture series.

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    According to Kahle, a lack of understanding of key business processes and an over-reliance on one individual to reconcile inventory led to differences between capitalizing freight and goods in transit. “Bottom line, it was a failure of personal responsibility.”

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    In January 2008, an independent investigation revealed no intentional misconduct, no intentional misstatement, no missing inventory, no missing money and no fraud. It was simply an accounting error that went on too long.

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    “Responsibility is synonymous for accountability,” Kahle explained before encouraging students to always ask, challenge, understand, communicate and collaborate and act by doing the right thing. She said even though Ace had an open door policy, no one questioned or bothered to learn any process beyond their job description and defined role.

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    “There are no dumb questions,” Kahle reminded students. “We all need to feel a little uncomfortable everyday” by asking questions until we fully understand.“

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    Kahle and the Ace executive team knew they had to face the error and fix it.

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    The team created an aggressive business plan focused on remediation, restatement, refinancing, restoring equity and regaining customer trust and retail momentum. The team also set out to redefine its culture by instituting core values highlighted by integrity and responsibility.

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    To illustrate her point, Kahle cited several current events as examples of personal and professional responsibility failures including Illinois’ pay to play politics, shootings on college campuses, the Enron and WorldCom scandals and most recently, the mortgage meltdown and auto industry collapse.

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    “It’s up to you as future business leaders to put personal and professional responsibility into practice,” Kahle concluded. “The future is in your hands. Take it personally.”

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    Kahle’s return to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as part of the Leighton Lecture Series was co-sponsored by the College of Business and the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society. Richard (’49) and Grace (’50) Leighton, the generous sponsors of this series, attended Kahle’s lecture and were recognized for their foresight in creating the ethics-based format.

    2008 Leighton Lecture: Creating a Win-Win for Both Employers and Employees

    Alumna Haben Delivers 2008 Leighton Lecture

    By Lauren Randazzo

    During her lecture on March 26, 2008, alumna Mary Kay Haben of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company left her audience with a strong message to take with them: leadership and ethics constitute reputation and there is nothing more important than how people perceive your character.

    During her lecture on March 26, Mary Kay Haben (’77), the Group Vice President and Managing Director for the North America sector of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, left her audience with a strong message to take with them that is applicable to the business world and beyond: leadership and ethics constitute reputation and there is nothing more important than how people perceive your character.

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    In today’s business world, CEO’s and other leaders are constantly being watched. “One must be accountable. When mistakes are made, it is important to act responsibly.” Haben believes, “A true leader should take responsibility for what happened, apologize and work hard to fix the problem.”

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    Haben, who is also a 27 year veteran of Kraft Foods, Inc., gave an example of a respectable response from a company faced with a serious crisis. Her former boss from Kraft Foods, Inc., who currently works for Mattel, responded to the very serious and dangerous problem of certain toy parts containing lead.

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    Haben delivering Leighton Lecture "He did what was right for the public good. He took responsibility for what had happened, apologized to consumers and ultimately Mattel’s stock rebounded” as a result of his transparent communication practices and strong leadership skills and ethics.

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    While Haben’s message prepared students for future careers in corporate America, she also cautioned students to the dangers of popular social networking websites such as Facebook or Myspace many use today.

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    “Behave impeccably. You are being watched. It will come back to haunt you ten to twelve years down the line” she warned.

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    Haben also encouraged students to find out if the companies they consider as employers share similar ethics and leadership attributes. “The company you choose is as important to your reputation as your reputation is to the company that hires you.”

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    Haben left her audience with final remarks reminding them that trust, dignity and respect are the keys to a healthy company and reputation.

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    “All companies today need to think beyond profit. They need to do more than just manufacture products. The ones that do the right thing win. It is one of the things that attracted to me to Wrigley and why I am proud to be a part of the company today.”

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    Postscript:

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    Mary Kay met her husband Edward when they were undergraduates at Illinois. Her son, Mike, is currently a junior in Finance.