When I first read about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement on Volkswagen's wrongdoing, I instinctively knew that this was not likely to be just another corporate scandal that gets swept away in a few months.
I wrote to myself, "this is a story with legs, long-term consequences, and numerous iterations to come."
I also knew the story would touch all of my professional hot buttons:
- corporate responsibility
- corporate image management
- corporate branding
How right I was. And now, 17 months after this corporate cheating scandal (commonly referred to as Dieselgate) became public, the story is still far from over.
The Volkswagen saga is a huge wake-up call for leaders at all levels of any company or organization. And it will continue to be so for years to come.
Leadership, corporate governance, branding, crisis communications, corporate responsibility, and individual accountability are the key topics we explore in Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga. There are valuable lessons here for all leaders.
Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga
The Volkswagen diesel emissions test cheating scandal (Dieselgate) and its various offshoots have had a far-reaching impact on a wide range of parties.
This impact has been financial, environmental, political, and regulatory. The parties affected include car owners, Volkswagen's leadership team and employees, shareholders, car dealers, government officials, regulatory agencies, the media, the automotive industry, and even the Made-in-Germany brand.
To date, Volkswagen has been assessed or agreed to over $24B in fines, penalties, and compensatory payments to car owners. One Volkswagen employee is serving an 18-month jail term in South Korea. Another is awaiting sentencing in the U.S. after a plea bargain arrangement. A third sites in a U.S. jail thousands of miles away from his home in Germany pending his own trial or plea bargain agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Five of their colleagues in Germany have been indicted on felony charges by a U.S. grand jury and have been warned not to leave the country.
The Volkswagen Saga is a story of deliberate corporate malfeasance that has impacted the automaker's car brands, leadership structure, governance, corporate reputation, current and future financial results, and its corporate culture.
It is a story full of leadership lessons on corporate governance, branding, crisis communications, corporate responsibility, and individual accountability relevant to leaders of any size organization.
Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga nails the teachings and learnings stemming from what is now the benchmark for corporate cheating scandals.