Ethics in Business: Faith at Work

By James M. Childs Jr. | Go to book overview

6

BEYOND LEADERSHIP TO
SERVANT LEADERSHIP

A recently retired top executive at a nationally known company spoke eloquently of how the ethos of the company's founder per vaded the life of the corporation. His strong principles and Christian values had assured that the company would be [a high-minded organization.] No one who worked there could escape being exposed to that tradition; they were expected to live by it.

Now, my friend told me, things are very different. The corporation has been bought by a larger, highly diversified corporation and become a division of that organization. Not only does the new management not have a feel for the product line and the industry itself but also they do not have a feel for the values of the original founder. The memory and influence of that industry giant are fading fast.

This has become an oft-told story in recent times. The National Institute for Business Management has cited constantly changing company ownership as a significant factor in the erosion of ethical standards in businesses since the heyday of corporate raiding and company buyouts in the 1980s. Turnover hampers the developing and sustaining of ethical standards in several ways. First of all, as in my opening example, it dilutes the corporate culture and ethos. Second, the game of buying and selling companies tends to focus on short-term profits at the expense of longrange concerns for the quality of the business. Finally, it undermines employee loyalty. When a relationship of mutual commitment and trust does not exist between employees and owners, the conditions are not favorable for the development of a strong ethical tradition.1


THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER

Situations and incidents such as these raise the issue of the ethical significance of character in business leadership and the character of the corporate culture it shapes and by which it is shaped. The quality of ethical

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Ethics in Business: Faith at Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1: Bridging the Shareability Gap 1
  • 2: From Being a Nobody to Being a Somebody 14
  • 3: The Not-So-Secular World 28
  • 4: From Dualism to Dialogue 42
  • 5: Beyond the Moral Minimum 56
  • 6: Beyond Leadership to Servant Leadership 71
  • 7: Beyond Affirmative Action 86
  • 8: Beyond Mere Survival 102
  • 9: Beyond Certainty 121
  • 10: Beyond the Company Walls 136
  • Notes 149
  • Index 163
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