Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Legal Mind and Integrity in the Workplace: Principled Prerequisites for Statesmanship in Leadership

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Legal Mind and Integrity in the Workplace: Principled Prerequisites for Statesmanship in Leadership

Article excerpt


How a business does what it does (process) is as important as the product made or the services delivered. Executives recently have tended to focus exclusively on profits and neglect principles, to the overall detriment of society and the environment. The letter of the law and contracts, as well as the spirit of agreements, must be comingled if progress is to be made in addressing today's major issues.

McCarthy synthesizes the work of Blackstone, Carter, Heifetz and Howard in developing a foundation for integrity in the workplace, grounded in principles rather than people and power. Urging a focus on core issues rather than peripheral distracters, he suggests ways to bridge the gap between espoused values and daily behaviors.


When "LAY LIES" sounds like a grammarian's trick exercise instead of another CEO misleading employees and shareholders, (1) our economy is in trouble. While much of the nation lamented the plight of Enron investors and employees, the very purpose (MISSION) of the company and its design (ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE) was seldom questioned as long as people were making money while ignoring basic premises. This is a sign of a society in trouble (Was the nature of the problem in the very name? Might Shakespeare have called it GOWRONG or perhaps ENDRUN?)

When LEAKS become tsunami, whether from a grand jury or a highly placed government official, public focus tends to be on an individual or a company, not on a process that has been violated, and certainly not on the short and long term impact of such compromises on human interactions. Societal trust levels are placed at risk. The New York Times no longer just disseminates "All the News That's Fit to Print." The LIBBY LEAK causes one to wonder what Sulzberger, Jr. and company really learned from the Jayson Blair (2) and Judith Miller (3) incidents.

When "true" numbers no longer mattered to an Arthur Andersen, not just from Enron but from Waste Management Inc. and Sunbeam; nor for Deloitte for cable giant Adelphia as well, (4) but an auditing firm's interests lay (pun intended) instead with consulting engagements with the very same companies whose business practices they were to verify as compliant with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), who or what could be trusted?

To help answer that question and address the focus of this year's Oxford Round Table, The Influence of Sir William Blackstone on Business and American Education, I would suggest that we concentrate on principles as opposed to people, or perhaps better stated, on individuals who practice principles of a higher order, and should be recognized as true statesman, whether in business, government or education. One can begin such a journey of discovery by reading the lecture notes of Blackstone delivered here at Oxford, more than two centuries ago, on the elements of law, its letter, principles and spirit.

His Commentaries (5) serve as a balcony from which to view the law and the legal mind, as comfortably speaking from a carefully prepared text, he sought to craft the universals rather than the particulars of the Laws of England. The methodology of examination was scientific in nature. Scrutinizing a general law, its history as well as the rules and regulations that sprung from it, Blackstone explained the underlying fundamental principles that supported the law as well as the usefulness of it, comparing it, as needed, to the natural law and those of other countries. (6) A rubric was unknowingly created that would result in his work being viewed as the most influential law book ever published in the English language. (7)

He wrote: "Society is formed for the protection of individuals; and states or government, for the preservation of society." (8)

"To interpret a law, we must enquire after the will of the maker; which may be collected either from the words, the context, the subject-matter, the effects and consequence, or the spirit and reason of the law" . …

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