Student Voices
Back to Listing

It Takes an Entire Career to Build Integrity, but Just Seconds to Lose It


By Christopher McCurry, BBA ’17

Recently, our MO 415 class, Introduction to Managing Human Capital, was fortunate enough to travel to Detroit to visit the headquarters of General Motors and meet with GM CEO Mary Barra.

During the visit, I asked Mary Barra about her core values and how these have driven her leadership decisions throughout her career. She mentioned how she emphasizes the importance of integrity.

She told me how it takes an entire career to build integrity but just seconds to lose it.

GM CEO Barra, and Ross Professor Cheri Alexander

I think this is incredibly important for any executive to believe, especially one who has dealt with automobile recalls and protecting the safety of others.

Barra also mentioned how she always seeks out people who are honest and have a high degree of self-ownership. She would much rather work with someone who owned up to a mistake, rather than someone who pushed the blame onto someone else, and I respect that level of admiration for integrity. Honesty is key for protecting everyday consumers.

I was also impressed with Barra’s natural and comfortable demeanor.

When I heard we were going to meet the CEO of the largest automobile manufacturer in North America, I was nervous and worried she would come off as the most direct and blunt person I had ever met. However, she was very human and a great joy to be around.

I found this a reassuring thing to keep in mind. Despite the role people are placed in or the power they are given, executive members of a team are still humans, and I can’t help but believe that we’ll all be more effective business professionals if we treat each other as such.

I think this further stresses the importance of bringing strong people skills into any job, and it’s something I’m going to work hard to bring into my own career as it begins in the next few years.

I am appreciative of the insights Mary Barra gave our class, and I’m looking forward to carrying these lessons with me into the future.

Christopher McCurry is a student in the Michigan Ross BBA Program Class of 2017. He’s also a member of the Phi Chi Theta Professional Fraternity and will be starting a career in investment banking after graduating in May 2017.