Is honesty the best form of business risk management?

Morality and high performance do not come together just by accident, says Steve Manallack.

Has the simple moral value of honesty gone missing among western business leaders?

Stephen ManallackAlmost daily we see court cases or media coverage and consistently the businesses and their leaders involved have tried to "cover up", or disguise, some problem rather than perform the simple act of coming clean and telling the truth.

Yet there is plenty of evidence of a connection between strong moral principles and business success (one of the best books is Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success, Wharton School Publishing, by Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel). Take it even further, many of my fellow PR practitioners believe that a policy of absolute honesty at all times should be at the top of corporate agendas, providing the best long term form of risk management.

Public relations might get part of the blame for the current culture that feels smart managers cover things up or wrap them in so much gloss that the public is deceived. But these people finish up catching themselves out.

PR really is a matter of choosing the right words at the right time for the right audience. As such, it is far removed from covering up. As we say in this industry, "you can't carve rotten wood" and companies with a moral vacuum at the top find this out the hard way.