Ethical leadership as a reflex at Volvo Cars Premium

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What is the role of the organization in promoting ethical leadership? Volvo Cars is raising awareness around how to respond ethically to the kinds of moral dilemmas that leaders confront on a daily basis. Excerpt from Business Digest’s interview with Erica Wikman, Chief Compliance Officer at Volvo Cars:

Business Digest Wilkman Volvo

“Ethics is one of the most important parts of leadership,” says Erica, emphasizing that the trust of all company stakeholders and customers depend on it and that, in the new digital era, trust is linked in more ways and more critically to company performance than ever before. “It’s particularly important in terms of getting the most from the people who work for you,” says Erica. “When I look back at my own career, I haven’t always had good personal chemistry with all of my superiors — everyone can’t like everyone! But that hasn’t really mattered to my performance as long as I felt that I respected my leaders. I have to see that the people leading me have integrity — that they act on their values — to feel engaged and perform well.” In addition to engagement issues, Erica emphasizes that leading ethically is simply “good business.” “As our CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, has said, ‘Shortcuts are seldom beneficial over the long term.’ Even when an ethically questionable decision seemingly has a short-term financial benefit, it tends to cost the organization over the long term. But it takes a lot of courage and integrity to maintain a high level of ethical leadership in the face of tough business situations, which is why it is so important to have the kind of culture and training in place that develops ethical reflexes in leaders and employees in response to the difficult moral dilemmas that they inevitably face on a day-to-day basis.”

Since October 2013, Erica Wikman has been the chief compliance officer for Volvo Car Group, heading up their Corporate Compliance & Ethics Office, which has the responsibility of developing, implementing, and maintaining an effective compliance & ethics program on a global basis within the company. She joined Volvo Cars in September 2004 as a labour affairs manager and has since served as both a senior manager in HR and the director of sustainability communication. Erica holds a Master of Law from the University of Gothenburg.


Based on Return On Character: The Real Reason Leaders and their Companies Win by Fred Kiel (Harvard Review Press, March 2015), “Pourquoi des managers même pas méchants prennent-ils des decisions immorales ?” by Sonia Arnal (Allez Savoir!, January 2015); “How unconscious bias affects everything you do,” by Howard Ross (Fast Company, October 2014); “Loyalty to a Leader Is Overrated, Even Dangerous,” by Julie Irwin (Harvard Business Review, December 2014); “Peer Pressure for Teens Paves the Path to Adulthood” by Shirley S. Wang (The Wall Street Journal, June 2013) and the interview with Erica Wikman, Chief Compliance & Ethics Officer, Volvo Car Group.