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Penn State Scandal Highlights Failures in Leadership and Culture

A damning new report on the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State shows that it was preventable, says columnist Gael O'Brien. "Whether it is child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, fraud or some other crime, one of the great enablers or deterrents to crisis is the culture of an organization," she writes. "The unpleasant truth is it can happen anywhere a culture doesn’t resist."

‘Community of Trust’ Confronts Challenge at University of Virginia

The forced resignation of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan has generated turmoil and widespread dissent among faculty, students and staff on the Charlottesville campus. And the state's governor has given the university's board an ultimatum to resolve the situation. "What UVA is demonstrating, " writes columnist Gael O'Brien, "is that when values aren’t put into practice, distrust is created."

Women Advancing to the C-Suite: Why So Difficult?

For women seeking to advance in greater numbers to CEO and board roles, gender diversity continues to move at a tortoise pace. At Fortune 500 companies, women still represent only 3.6 percent of CEOs and hold only 16 percent of board seats. Improving on that, says columnist Gael O'Brien, will require a leadership of engagement.

Workplace Bullying: More Common – and Damaging – Than You Think

When we think of bullying, school kids come to mind. But columnist Gael O'Brien reports that bullying is also a growing problem on the job. By one estimate, more than 54 million people will be bullied in U.S. workplaces this year. The toll can be high for individuals and organizations. "It creates such a toxic environment," says one executive,"that it undermines anything you are trying to accomplish from a business perspective.”

Building Confidence in Banks: The Payoff in Jobs

Columnist Gael O'Brien speaks with Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton about a new book in which he argues that successful entrepreneurship and job creation are the most pressing issues facing the world. A critical part of addressing those challenges: the banking industry and its relationships with small business. "Banks," says Clifton, "are one degree away from us, not six degrees."

Managers and Ethics: The Importance of ‘Tone in the Middle’

Columnist Gael O'Brien speaks with Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of the Gallup organization, about his new book and the critical role that managers play in the ethics of an organization. “Ethics, like politics, is local, local, local," Clifton says. "If I think my boss treats me ethically and honestly, that is what I think of the company."

After Paterno, Penn State’s Struggle to Rebuild Trust

With the death of long-time football coach Joe Paterno, Penn State enters a new stage of its crisis stemming from criminal sex abuse charges against a former assistant coach. Columnist Gael O’Brien thinks the university’s trustees have made numerous mistakes and says the institution now must learn “how to tolerate discomfort with unflattering headlines while the focus is on trust building, not brand building.”

Freedom Riders’ Legacy: Creating a Culture of Common Purpose

December 2011 brings to a close the official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. Columnist Gael O'Brien suggests that the experience of these 1960s civil rights activists offers inspiration - and some very practical lessons - to those seeking to create common purpose in 21st century organizations and companies.

Culture Kills: The Legacy of Massey Energy

In April 2010, 29 miners died in Massey’s Upper Big Branch (UBB), the worst mining disaster in 40 years. On December 6, 2011, the U.S. Department of Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a 1,000 page report of its investigation into the UBB tragedy. Alpha Natural Resources, which bought Massey earlier this year, agreed to pay $209 million in penalties (civil, criminal and restitution) for Massey Energy’s role in the explosion.

Campus Crises Highlight Risk Management Weaknesses

Columnist Gael O'Brien says recent crises at University of California Davis, Syracuse University and Penn State University raise questions about the role of risk management on campuses. One problem, she writes, is that university leaders "often don’t have practice thinking through how their values, and those of the institution, will come into play in a variety of different potential situations."