How Business Schools Can Create Ethical Leaders
Ask a leader to pin down the essential traits that any key leader must have and it’s likely they will all give the same answers. A good leader should have sound judgment; they should be able to delegate appropriately; they should be good communicators who are able to clearly explain exactly what is inside their heads; they should have confidence in themselves; they should be 100% committed to their company – and they need to be ethical.
The Importance Of Ethics
When a leader is responsible for a team of people, it’s key that whatever ethical plane they subscribe to, they raise the bar even higher. A business is a reflection of its leader, and if you as a leader promote healthy values and honesty, the rest of your team will follow your patterns of behavior.
In the past, people used to say that business owners and entrepreneurs were “ruthless” people who made “cutthroat” decisions that created short-term profits, but ignored the bigger picture. Today, we can replace ruthlessness with assertiveness, and reimagine the business world as a place where honesty really is the best policy for long-term survival.
Because business has changed in the last decade or so, thanks to the highly interconnected world that we inhabit, as well as the global recession that saw many consumers lose faith in our international leaders, business schools also need to follow suit.
Put simply, many of the world’s leading CEO’s have MBA’s, which has led people to question whether business schools should be doing more to raise awareness of the importance of making responsible decisions.
Do business schools properly prepare MBA students to make ethical decisions that always keep the long-term in mind? Or do they disregard this practice, and give students the confidence to take short-term risks and decisions that take us to the brink of a full economic collapse?
Businesses who make questionable, unethical short-term decisions for instant glory won’t last the course. For any business to have longevity, decisions should always be made while keeping in mind a long-term vision.
Short-term glories center around profit. But short-term goals limit our visions and scope, and prevent us from making responsible and – more importantly – sustainable business choices that will benefit potentially millions of people.
To this end, business schools in 2016 and onwards should start focusing on mindfulness, compassion and business ethics. Essentially, they should start focusing on doing the right thing.
Business Schools Need To Lead The Way
IMD recently revised their Building on Talent program so that it now helps students to understand the wider moral context in which they operate. The course also aims to help students realize that companies who profit responsibly are those who last the distance.
Not only do the companies benefit, but so too does society at large. In the aftermath of the recession, when the dust has only started to properly settle, regaining the trust of consumers is super important.
As Professor Jack Denfield Wood points out, “leadership must be exercised responsibly if it is to be beneficial; and leadership development must include the development of a finer moral and ethical compass and increased self-awareness.”
Let’s take a look at a few virtues business schools can instill in their students.
Because our world is increasingly interdependent, it would be wrong of a leader to ignore a large part of society so that only a minority benefit from the decisions they take. A leader needs to have compassion that allows them to carry their fellow people, as well as understand everyone’s unique perspective.
Compassion helps a leader to empathize with workers at the end of a 12-hour shift, and recognize their needs.
Compassion helps a leader to work together with team members for mutual success.
If you’ve been keeping a close eye on the business world, you might have seen the term “gross national happiness” pop up once or twice. Gross national happiness refers to workplaces and organization that people – staff as well as consumers – are happy to belong to.
It’s difficult to be happy unless you live in the present moment. Numerous business schools around the world are teaching their students the practice of mindfulness, with the hope that forgetting all thoughts about the past and future that can cloud their judgment.
Awareness of everything around you is fundamental to enhanced productivity.
Long term success isn’t possible unless you make ethical decisions. If you’ve ever watched the hit U.S. series 24, you will know that leaders reach hazardous ethical dilemmas that test their morals. Leaders come to crossroads all their time, and to help guide them with their decision making, business schools can continue to give them the tools they need to lead ethically.
Although ethics is not really something that can be taught, it is possible to nurture a student so that they make better decisions. Before becoming a leader, a student needs to understand themselves better, as well as the world at large. Once they have done that, our entire ecosystem will be reinvigorate so that we as a collective can achieve more than we have so far.
This post was written by Gretchen Shaw. Gretchen is an author, blogger and entrepreneur with a penchant for baking. She is passionate about communication, continued learning and connecting people. You can follow her on Twitter: @shawgret