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Clorox CEO rallies for ethical leaders

| Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chairman and CEO of the Clorox Company Don Knauss addressed a crowd via web feed at the Jordan Auditorium at the Mendoza College of Business on Thursday evening in a lecture entitled “Leadership Traits,” which focused on his extensive business experience and the underlying principles of successful leadership.

“Leadership is a hackneyed word, but it truly means rallying people for a better future,” Knauss said.

Knauss said there is a dichotomy between thought leadership and people leadership, but both are crucial to success. He emphasized creating loyalty within organizations because employees are the most important constituency of a company. Knauss said his own efforts at Clorox, such as personal lunches with low-level employees, rewarding long term employees and making all employees eligible for bonuses, represented the achievement of his leadership goals.

Knauss also said these leadership efforts produced tangible results. In 2006, 15 percent of Clorox’s brands won blind consumer tests 60 percent of the time, a benchmark of individual brand success. Today, 60 percent of its brands meet this goal and 80 percent are either ranked first or second in their respective categories. Knauss said he was especially proud of the results within his company.

“Everyone got a seat at the table” Knauss said.

Knauss expanded on his leadership paradigm, and said, “the most invaluable leadership traits are integrity, curiosity, optimism, compassion and humility.”

He said leaders from Marie Curie to Margaret Thatcher to Cesar Chavez embodied these aforementioned traits. Integrity, Knauss said, is aligned with honesty, trust and strength of character.

Knauss said curiosity creates a safe environment for debate and true optimism combined with the ability to face reality will make faith successful. 

Describing compassion’s importance, Knauss said, “life is not fair, but you must use your power to make it fair.” Knauss said humility creates a feeling of approachability in any organization.

Following Knauss’s presentation, Knauss answered questions about how his military experience affected his leadership and how he implemented his people-focused vision on a daily basis. Knauss said students in the audience must remain true to their values because “everything you do communicates.”

The lecture was part of the Berges Lecture Series sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business and Institute for Ethical Business Worldwide. The series showcases business executives speaking about ethics.

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