(Sorry to be posting late today, people!)
If you think that ethics don’t matter – or even worse, that the rules don’t matter and don’t apply to you – then you are not setting yourself up to lead others.
To illustrate, you can see as Exhibit A this opinion piece from a columnist at the New York Times . Yes, this is about politics, but remember we recommended just a few weeks ago that you should be paying attention to these things. (We’re not saying that you should have already read this piece; only that it’s relevant to a conversation about getting into bschool.)
David Brooks, the columnist, is a Republican.
The headline is “I miss Barack Obama.”
Yeah, that sounds strange.
Just to be clear: Republicans don’t like Democrats. They especially don’t like Barack Obama.
Why would a Republican be complimenting his party’s Enemy #1?
Well, you can read it for yourself. The gist of it is that he feels that Barack and Michelle Obama have integrity.
Here’s another angle: Brooks says that Obama cares about people, and also that he has a good process for making decisions.
Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.
That sounds like a quality of a strong leader, eh?
What about becoming a “hero”? We never thought of ethics in that context until we read about this guy: The professor from Virginia Tech who’s helped to bring attention to the crisis with lead in the public water supply in Flint, Michigan. His name is Marc Edwards. He teaches environmental engineering. He exposed a crisis just like this in the Washington, D.C. water system previously.
Here’s a quote from him in that article:
“I feel like I’m doing the job I was born to do,” he said. “I get up every day with such a sense of purpose I wish everyone could experience something like that once in their life.”
Well that’s pretty inspiring.
Here’s a TedX talk he gave on heroism if you want to see more of this guy.
If you want to be a leader in the world, then why not aspire to be a hero? (We’re serious.)
Having a foundation in humility, and empathy, and an ability to think rationally, and, yes, a strong ethical core, are all pretty foundational to any of this.
Ethics is a slippery thing. If you’ve thought about it at all, you’ve probably assumed that you’re already ethical. Something like 86% of people think that they’re more ethical than others. It’s kinda like driving: Everyone thinks they’re an above-average driver. Hmmmm.
We’re not saying you’re NOT ethical. It’s not like you are the one responsible for bringing down the world economies in 2008, right? Even if you worked on Wall Street at the time, it wasn’t YOU who was making those bad decisions and trying to get one over on others. However, we’re also guessing that pretty much everyone who did make those decisions wasn’t thinking about the ethical implications or what the consequences really were. That movie we mentioned recently, The Big Short, shows this.
You folks are the type who are saying you want to save the world. That’s awesome! It sure needs some saving right about now. When you put yourself out there, you can guarantee that you’re going to attract some challenges. “With great power, comes great responsibility,” goes that wonderful quote. If you’re seeking the privileges of getting a top-notch business education from one of the world’s best business schools, what are you going to do with it?