Dear Ethix – Issue 53

I was just reading the latest issue of Ethix. The interview with the chairman of PepsiCo was very good. And the “Best Practices” column is going to reward you with a new window into humanitarian and fair leadership.

I am convinced that more needs to be done to build this type of leadership into executives. I believe it will take a different kind of MBA to make a difference in leadership. A few years ago when I was responsible for shepherding executive development at Boeing, we did a survey of executive offerings at major universities. A woman working in my organization found that she could find lots of skills development, but little if anything connected with values and responsibilities of the executive as regards the environment, treating people with fairness, going beyond compliance with the law, and awakening the deeper sense of stewardship leaders should have for the community at large. Moreover, such elements that were incorporated in these programs tended to wash out in the re-entry process because the experiences were didactic and not experiential.

So we engaged a local university in the development of a program for executives that has features designed to build trust among participants, secure authentic leadership behavior changes, and awaken the sense of social justice that is hopefully latent in all of us. Here are some of those features:

  1. The program starts in an immersive ropes course that starts the trust building and bonds the cohort.
  2. The program is seven months long, with about three days per month participation. Thus the initial “inoculation” is followed by many “booster shots” so that the regression to past practice is attenuated.
  3. The program is experiential, with case study and deeply introspective elements involving a lot of writing.
  4. The program always did involve social-justice programs, and the most recent cohorts have been intensely involved in creating programs that have legs and may extend beyond their ELP (executive learning program) period.

I would encourage you to look at this program (the EMBA program from Seattle University) for a future issue of Ethix. Programs like this can introduce change in the way executives see the importance of values, the environment, and stewardship.

Peter Morton
Whidbey Island, Wash.

Positive Ethics

I read the “Positive Ethics” article in the new Ethix publication recently. This input adds good material to the publication. I shared this article with a close colleague and because of that he is subscribing.

A reader,
Little Rock, Ark.

We encourage subscriptions! We now have online subscribing as well as a card in this issue that will make it easy to sign up.

The first sentence of the “Positive Ethics” article lost me. Ethics most certainly is positive and, in my experience, usually is approached from that direction. If “…ethics is taught…” from a negative perspective, it’s no wonder that the system isn’t working. It’s the wrong system.

The reason people tend to be defensive lies in a misunderstanding of ethics, which, in my experience, is more often the case than not. This misunderstanding comes from the top down, starting with a teacher with insufficient knowledge of what ethics really is. This in turn stems from a tendency to “define” ethics the easiest way — from its adjective ethical — allowing personal interpretation into the process and fouling the system at its origin.

Fix this and you’ve solved the problem. Trouble is, not many of us are willing to go back to the beginning.

Fred L. Fox
Oro Valley, Ariz.

Good point, Fred. However, your experience is different from ours. Too many companies view ethics as synonymous with compliance, and treat business ethics as boundaries to avoid. And while you must do this, we believe ethics goes far beyond compliance and deals with doing right, not just avoiding doing wrong.

Good Work

The magazine and the website are impressive. Congratulations.

Phil Butler
Seattle, Wash.

I just finished reading your very good article in the March/April issue of Ethix. Thanks so much for the thought and effort that went into that article on business in 2032!

Jim Hocking
Warsaw, Ind.

The latest issues of Ethix have been excellent. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on Getty Images related to the backdating of stock options.

David W. Gill
Oakland, Calif.

We were also disappointed to see that a company with so many great attributes was apparently involved in the stock-option backdating. We will look into it.