1. Sherron contributes to the international dialogue on leadership, ethics, organizational behavior and governance, through articles, book chapters and interviews.   

Viewpoint: Ken Lay Still Isn't Listening

Sunday, May. 28, 2006

by Sherron S. Watkins

The reporter caught me while I was sitting in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church awaiting the joyous and celebratory graduation services of my daughter's grade school. "What do you feel about the verdicts?" Since I had met with Ken Lay in August 2001 to warn him of Enron's shady accounting and Lay for the most part ignored my warnings, the reporter wanted to know, "Do you feel vindicated?" My mood did not remain joyous or celebratory. I stammered something about being satisfied that justice prevailed. What I couldn't convey in words is a sense of sadness, sadness for what could have been.

In early 2001 Lay and Jeff Skilling, Enron's longtime leaders, unveiled a new mission statement. No longer would Enron strive to be "The World's Leading Energy Company"; we were going to be "The World's Leading Company." Why limit ourselves to energy? Enron was fast-paced, inventive, exciting; we epitomized the New Economy, able to innovate virtually overnight. Unfortunately, in life, our strengths can become our weaknesses. Just as the dark side of charisma is narcissism, the dark side of innovation is fraud. Enron fell victim to both. Our finance, accounting and legal departments pushed the use of off-balance-sheet vehicles over the line that separates creative transactions from fraudulent ones. Our corporate culture became narcissistic; we were focused on our image, not our customers or our products. The most alarming revelation is how easy it was to co-opt the outside world into joining us as we sang our praises: auditors, lawyers, bankers, the media.

Are we now less likely to fall victim to the next charismatic, innovative leader? I still wonder whether we truly recognize and value the appropriate traits in our leaders. We want honest leaders who are decisive, creative, optimistic and even courageous, but we so easily settle for talk that marks those traits instead of action. Worse, we often don't even look for one of the most critical traits of a leader: humility. A humble leader listens to others. He or she values input from employees and is ready to hear the truth, even if it is bad news. Humility is marked by an ability to admit mistakes.

There is no humility in either Skilling or Lay. As I watched Lay after the verdict, I was deeply dismayed by his inability to discern truth. He did not discern the truth of my warnings in August 2001. He failed to discern the truth of his own culpability; he refuses to take responsibility. He hides behind words of Scripture, but even these he misuses.

By the fall of 2001 Lay was telling us that Enron's future had never looked better, even as he was cashing in his Enron shares. By taking care of himself, Lay violated one of Jesus' leadership lessons, found in Mark 9:35: "If anyone desires to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all." We need to applaud the servant-leader, the one who clearly demonstrates that the interests of the organization and its customers, employees and investors (in that order) come first, not his own.

Humility is a critically important trait in leaders. We have to ask ourselves, Is our society cultivating humility? Do we exhibit that trait individually and collectively as a nation? Will we stop and learn from the Enron lesson in leadership failures, or will we just shrug our shoulders and thank God we're not Ken Lay?         Read the article online here.

Taking On Enron

In the thick of one of the largest corporate scandals ever, whistleblower Sherron Watkins faced the toughest decision of her life.

By Julie-Allyson Ieron


Sifting through a box of personal items from her old office, former Enron vice president Sherron Watkins came across a pad of Enron-issued sticky notes emblazoned with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." 

"How many Enron employees had these pads sitting on their desks but didn't read the quote? Or if they did read it, didn't take it to heart?" asks Sherron today.

Read whole article here.

Technical Articles and Chapters, Business Books and Journals:

Leadership and Governance, from the Inside Out, edited by Robert Gandossy, Hewitt Associates and Jeffrey Sonnefield, Yale School of Management, Wiley, 2004.  “Twenty-First Century Corporate Governance: The Growing Pressure on the Board Toward a Corporate Solution” by Sherron S. Watkins, contributing author.  

The Accountable Corporation, Volume 2: Business Ethics, edited by Marc J Epstein and Kirk O Hanson, Praeger Publishers, 2006.  “Creating the Ethical Organization: Lessons from Inside Enron” by Sherron S. Watkins, contributing author.  

California Management Review, Volume 45, No. 4, Summer 2003, University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.  “Leadership: Ethical Conflicts at Enron: Moral Responsibility in Corporate Capitalism” by Sherron S. Watkins, contributing author.

Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, Volume 11, No.1, 2004, Baker College, Kellogg Foundation Special Issue: Values, Ethics, and Leadership.  Featured Interview, Sherron Watkins, Former Vice President for Corporate Development of Enron.

Whistleblowing Around the World - Law, Culture and Practice,  Edited by Richard Calland and Guy Dehn, The Open Democracy Advice Centre and Public Concern at Work, in partnership with The British Council, 2004.  “The Emperor’s new clothes: My Enron Story” by Sherron S. Watkins, contributing author.

Academy of Management Executive, Volume 17, No. 4, 2003, The Academy.  Featured Interview, Former Enron vice president Sherron Watkins on the Enron collapse.  

The 2004 Linkage Excellence in Management & Leadership Series, Ethics in Leadership, Participant Guide, 2004, Linkage Incorporated, Featuring Sherron Watkins, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002,  and Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., Professor of Ethics at Harvard.

Articles:  (by Sherron Watkins unless otherwise noted)

June 2, 2009, Academy of Management (AMLE), Resisting Organizational Level Corruption: An Interview with Sherron Watkins, by Gerard Beenen and Jonathan Pinto
Feb 17, 2009, Agenda (www.agendaweek.com), Dangerous Duo: Bully CEOs and Weak CFOs,  by Tony Chapelle (an interview with Sherron Watkins)

 August 24, 2008, Business Week, Executive Advice on Business@Work

July 10, 2008, Conde Nast  Portfolio, Life after Corporate Death, by JoAnn Greco (an interview with Sherron Watkins)

May 12, 2008, Agenda (www.agendaweek.com), Keep Internal Audit In-House, Warns Enron Whistleblower, by Tony Chapelle
Nov 2007, Asian-Counsel, J-SOX and beyond:  What Japan must learn from the United States and tell the world.  By Sherron Watkins and Richard S. Levick

June 2007, Monthly Newsletter: SOX For the Future, J-SOX Featured Expert Interview, www.hitachi.com  www.hitachi.us (newsletter/support & downloads)       
May 2007, Ethix 53, a bi-monthly publication of the Center for Integrity in Business, Did We Learn the Lessons from Enron? An Interview with Sherron Watkins by Albert M. Erisman

January/February 2007, Fraud Magazine, Vol.21, No. 1, Constant Warning, An Interview with Sherron Watkins

June 12, 2006, Business Week, Ideas Face Time with Maria Bartiromo, “The Ones Who Got Away”

July 5, 2004, Texas Lawyer, Corporate Integrity: Managing Profits, Investors and Ethics in the New Business Environment,  June 10, 2004 Panel, Summary of Remarks

June 6, 2004, The New York Times Magazine, Questions for Sherron Watkins, by Deborah Solomon

December 18, 2003, Accountancy Age, Profile: Sherron Watkins, Enron whistleblower shares her experiences with Damian Wild

December 2003, Business 2.0, How to Succeed in 2004, featured interview

July 2003, Fortune Brainstorm 2003, The Baby Jessica Syndrome

June 21, 2003, The Guardian, The Corporate Conscience: Interview: Sherron Watkins, Enron whistleblower, by Lesley Curwen

Nov/Dec 2002, Fraud Magazine, Vol 16, No. 6, Summary of Remarks, Annual Conference

NOTE:  listing above is not inclusive of news reports of Sherron Watkins; it is strictly articles of a more technical nature or articles authored by Sherron Watkins.http://www.agendaweek.comhttp://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/08/0814_executive_advice_on_business/index.htm?technology+slideshowshttp://www.portfolio.com/careers/features/2008/07/10/After-the-Whistle-Blows?page=1#page=1http://www.agendaweek.comhttp://www.hitachi.comhttp://www.hitachi.usshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3shapeimage_2_link_4shapeimage_2_link_5