Magazine article Baylor Business Review

Note to Business Schools: Practice What You Teach

Magazine article Baylor Business Review

Note to Business Schools: Practice What You Teach

Article excerpt

"Concentrate on developing strong leadership skills among managers and students, and then ethical business practices will more likely become part of the company-wide culture," says David Blake, chairman of the Ethical Business Leadership Task Force for Beta Gamma Sigma business honorary and a professor of Business at University of California, Irvine.

"When it comes to ethical business leadership, the noun should be leadership, with ethics serving as qualifier," he said. "Excellent leadership, coupled with moral good sense and core values, is central to incorporating ethical behavior throughout the corporation, which should be our goal."

Business schools play a fundamental role in helping future leaders understand the importance of practical leadership throughout an organization. Students should be taught early that ethical decisionmaking should be encouraged in the mailroom, by mail-handlers, as readily as it is expected in the boardroom by CEOs.

"Top schools establish the tone, provide the tools and teach a business culture where ethical behavior is insisted upon and practiced at every level within an organization, not just by titled executives," he states. "Only then will ethics be ingrained into the corporate fabric of the total marketplace."

As a private, Christian university, Baylor has the freedom to investigate, discuss, challenge and apply ethical, moral and spiritual principles in ways that state-supported schools do not.

"We are at distinct advantage at Baylor, because our heritage and ongoing culture has a moral foundation that is explicitly part of who we are as an institution, and informs what we expect of people in the Baylor family," says Mitchell J. Neubert, Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business.

But is it really possible for a business school, even if it is Christian-based, to implant a moral compass in its students? "Yes, to an extent, it is," says Neubert. "Exposing students to ethical models and questions, deliberating over ethical dilemmas and interacting with faculty and practitioners who choose to model ethical leadership can raise a student's ethical I.Q."

Neubert believes that challenging students to look beyond simple consequences or social norms to explore broader principles and ideals leads to improved moral decision-making and behavior. "Unfortunately, not every student chooses to rise to the challenge," he adds. While we like to believe that every student enrolled in business school encompasses the five core values that, according to the Institute for Global Ethics, define and shape ethics: honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness and compassion, this is an unrealistic expectation.

Identifying prospective students with key leadership potential who are also ethical is a universal challenge for business schools, especially when considering that top MBA programs accept fewer than 15 to 20 percent of their applicants. Therefore, business schools must be systematic and intentional in their attempts to influence the students they do admit.

According to Neubert, this begins with hiring qualified business faculty of moral character who can communicate and teach the importance of personal ethics as credibly as they teach professional problem-solving skills.

The Ethics Education Task Force of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) cites faculty apathy as being the "greatest single impediment to increasing the emphasis on ethical education in the business curriculum" ("Ethics Education in Business Schools," AACSB, 2004).

However, a significant rise in ethics research over the past 10 years indicates that increasing numbers of business scholars are recognizing the validity of ethics education. They are being supported in this view by school administrators, who are committing greater resources toward hiring qualified ethics professors and supporting faculty research opportunities.

Baylor Business has more than two dozen faculty involved in ethics research. …

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