Mendoza School of Business

Fighting for ethical leadership

Published: October 23, 2009 / Author: Carol Newswriting

A year ago, business failures began erupting across our economy. And in the ensuing months, thousands lost jobs and their hopes for a stable future. Homes were foreclosed, factories shut down. And the pain felt by American households has been deep.

“The risk-taking, greed and corporate misconduct of the past several years have caused many to distrust the role of business in society,” said Carolyn Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. “But while some may think this should be a time of retrenchment, we cannot afford that response. Business has the power to transform lives, by creating lasting economic value and enduring benefits for the people in our globalized world.”

Leaders at the Mendoza College view this as a time to ask more, not less, of businessmen and women and the companies they work for. The footprint of business is all-encompassing. Fifty-one of the world’s largest economies are corporations, and 300 multinational corporations account for 25 percent of the world’s assets, according to reports. It is business that can harness the power of advanced technology, communications and transportation to address serious issues, such as producing energy and distributing water resources, fighting disease and alleviating hunger.

“We want our students to become leaders who will make our collective future better by the privilege of the positions they hold, the decisions they make, the resources they develop and use, and the people whose lives they touch,” Dean Woo said.

For business to serve as a force for good, technical competence is not enough, Woo explains. We must expect more from business leaders than we have in the past. At the Mendoza College of Business, the fundamental tenet is that an education worthy of its students must teach them how to address difficult problems with honesty and strong habits of mind. The college is developing courses, research and service learning to develop a mindset that includes acting with integrity with a view toward the greater good, in order to build excellent business performance.

“We’re in the midst of a period of extraordinary change,” said Leo Burke, director of Integral Leadership at Notre Dame. “So in this context of a rapidly changing world, it’s essential for leaders to know themselves and live authentic lives grounded in their values. Only then can they add value in a sustained way.”

One of the ways the Mendoza College directly seeks to transform leadership is through Executive Integral Leadership, a signature program at Notre Dame for high level leaders. EIL participants spend an intense week on campus in interactive learning and individual coaching sessions. Integral theory provides both a virtual map to business analysis as well as a comprehensive framework for understanding values and leadership capabilities. The framework focuses on the whole person and integrating processes, relationships, values and culture to create a powerful leadership perspective.

“Ethics are values-in-action,” Burke said. “In order for our students to act ethically, they must be conscious of the values that drive their decisions and behaviors. The strength of EIL is that it really challenges the students to face what they truly stand for.”


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