Senior VP of Hewlett-Packard stresses importance of excellent and ethical leadership

Mary Peery, a former senior VP at Hewlett-Packard, advised students on how to lead effectively and ethically in any situation.

“I truly believe,” said Peery, “there is nothing more important for each of us as individuals to learn and incorporate into ourselves than the fundamentals of leadership, in particular ethical leadership.”

Drawing examples from her own leadership experience at HP, as an independent consultant and all previous positions, Peery explained the two different kinds of leadership and six key attributes of excellent and ethical leadership.

Students often wait for an official management position before they consciously practice their leadership skills. “Don’t wait until someday…,” said Peery, "start developing your skills today."

The two types of leadership come in formal management positions and informal leadership opportunities, one of which students are nearly always in. Every member of a team or family is exercising informal leadership even if they don’t recognize it.

Peery described the key attributes of excellent and ethical leaders as simplistic, then followed that by saying that simplistic “doesn’t necessarily mean easy to abide by.”

Value different perspectives

Seeking out and integrating a team with diverse ideas will allow your team to create an overall better product. Diverse skill sets often come with conflicting opinions but open communication and acceptance of different views heightens productivity and stimulates creativity.


“Trustworthiness absolutely has an impact on the leader’s capability of managing their business in an effective and impactful way,” she said.  When trust is lost, respect leaves as well. As a leader your team needs to know they can count on you and trust that you will leader them on the correct path.


Potentially horrible situations can run smoothly if you respect the people involved.

“After laying people off [they] were disappointed but said thank you, not for what was being done but for how we chose to do it. The fact that we stayed true to our values about treating people with dignity and respect helped them and it helped us,” said Peery.

Ability to make choices with both your head and your heart

Make decisions using a logical head then implement decisions using a considerate heart. The strategic execution of a decision has just as much weight in the outcome’s success as the initial decision.  


“When you know things aren’t going right, find your voice. Find the courage to stand up and say, ‘this is not the way it should be’,” she advised. Strong, ethical leadership requires immense courage but is vital to the success of your organization and personal character.

Humility and intense professional will

According to Peery, humility and will are the most important attributes. Intense professional will means a leader is always trying to reach the next level and achieve company potential. Humility means when things go wrong the leader accepts personal responsibility for the problem and when things are going well they give the credit back to their team. Someone who exhibits these qualities is a, “true listener, true leader [and demonstrates] immense respect for all levels of employees.”

Peery’s closing advice was for students to, “do all you can to strengthen your core and who you are because that core is what’s going to sustain you in your ethical leadership role.”

The Leadership Lecture series is organized by the Weidman Center for Global Leadership. It provides a unique opportunity for students, faculty and staff to learn from respected industry leaders.  The next Leadership Lecture, featuring Joseph Grenny, will be November 21. Grenny is cochairman and cofounder of VitalSmarts and coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer, and Change Anything. To learn more about the Leadership Lecture series or view past lectures, visit

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