Former Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Rambus
For Mike Schroeder, former Human Resources vice president at Rambus, you can’t talk about leadership in business—or really in any arena—without talking about ethics. As someone who started working in Silicon Valley in the 80s, Schroeder has observed, “Good people want to work for leaders who are ethical. It’s a huge factor. You see a lot of companies come and go or get into issues because of leadership that becomes pressured and cuts corners. You can’t build a lasting, great company on unethical behavior.”
Schroeder has found support for building an ethical company through the Center’s Business Ethics Partnership. The partnership brings together executives like Schroeder for candid discussion on the ethical challenges facing today’s corporations. He has particularly appreciated the roster of guests, such as the series of white collar felons brought to address the group by former US Assistant Attorney Hank Shea. He also valued an invitation to hear the Dalai Lama speak for the Ethics Center on compassion in business.
Schroeder finds the chance to interact with executives at other organizations particularly useful. “Mixing with other companies is invaluable, hearing what’s happening at XYZ company and thinking about where we are on the issue.”
Rambus has also taken advantage of specialized training available to companies through the partnership. Center Executive Director Kirk Hanson worked with the company on creating a healthy corporate culture.
“It’s been a fabulously rich source of material that could be applied to our efforts to improve leadership at Rambus,” Schroeder says, “to broaden our spectrum of concern from day-to-day issues to the broader challenges that can get people cornered in ethical spots.”
To Schroeder, that goes to the difference between ethics and compliance. “Compliance,” he says, “is the black and white, check-the-box approach that helps the board sleep at night. Ethics is how you create an environment where you don’t have to worry about compliance. If it’s only compliance, you cut off an organization’s ability to learn and understand how to avoid problems.”