As for those who claim their resignation might represent pressure from customers or investors, I doubt that Merck’s CEO launched a Survey Monkey, or that the Intel CEO ran a series of focus groups over the weekend. They may have discussed their decision with their respective boards of directors. Aside from being human beings first, they do report to their boards and they are responsible for their corporate work environment. Their resignations said nothing more and nothing less than, “As a human being, these groups are an affront and I cannot countenance ambiguous leadership on the issue of racism. As a CEO, I want my board, my management team, our valued employees, and our customers to know that our company stands against these domestic terrorists and those who would tolerate their actions.”

These CEOs did not resign because of a policy disagreement or refuse to serve because of political affiliation. They refused to serve a leader who abdicated moral leadership with respect to racism. In the end, their own boards can determine if their resignations served the interest of the corporation. Who knows, if their investors and customers prefer executives who countenance racism, those CEOs might be at risk. My guess, though, is that corporate boards will support moral leadership in instances where there are really not two sides—no matter what the president says.

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