Building Ethical Leaders by Mr.Anil Sachdev,SOIL Gurgaon

Business
has changed and therefore business schools too must change with times. It is a
highly inter-connected world that we live in and cross-country interactions
have heightened. The complexity of doing business has multiplied and today
every decision has far reaching implications that must be carefully thought
through. These stressful competing times lead to situations where one may lose
sight of the long term downside in favor of short term gains. This is why it is
imperative for business schools to focus on values such as compassion,
mindfulness and ethics.

It is
delightful to note that some of the best schools have begun programs that focus
on character as much as competence. Without strength of character, competence
alone cannot build greatness. Within character most business schools today
focus on compassion (seeing things from another’s point of view), mindfulness
(being fully aware and present) and ethics (doing the right thing).

Compassion
for leadership

Leaders
for the future must appreciate that the world is inter-dependent. They cannot
ignore a significant part of their society or country – it will only lead to
imbalance. They must have the ability to carry along their fellow citizens and
the empathy to understand each stakeholder’s unique perspective. As industry
leaders, they must appreciate the conditions of the homes that their workers
return to after a 12 hour shift. As salespeople they must understand the needs
of their rural clientele and how these can be fulfilled. As team members they should
empathize with each other for mutual success. For all this, they need to
understand the art of compassion. Compassion for us means the ability to
understand a situation from someone else’s perspective and take action towards
change.

This
is best learnt by volunteering with successful non-profit organizations and
bringing about change in challenging scenarios: taking responsibility without
authority. Non profits and quasi government bodies welcome bright minds who can
work with them to make innovative marketing plans, analyze spending and help
with HR policies. They also enjoy the interaction with faculty and industry
experts and therefore open their doors to the students. This is now an integral
part of curriculum across some of the leading business schools. Stanford for
example, sends its students to developing nations to work with communities and
develop solutions that would make work easier and lives better. While this
interaction does impact the communities, it also leaves a significant imprint on
the young leaders who have usually seen a completely different world. Kellogg
has a special program where every student is part of a non-profit board. Short
term projects or year-long volunteering – both work well to make the students
more compassionate leaders for life.

Mindfulness
in action

Apart
from compassion, organizations as well as individuals are now also looking for
meaning – more than ever before. Nations and businesses have started talking
about Gross National Happiness. They are focusing on building work places that
people would be happy being part of. To be happy is to be in the present moment
– to be mindful. This mindfulness can be instilled through the powerful
practice of yoga and pranayama. This daily practice roots them and grounds them
– preparing them for the rigor of leadership that they face in their jobs after
school. Several business schools have incorporated the practice of meditation
into their every day routine. Many others are calling this practice mindfulness
and incorporating it in various forms in their curriculum. It can also be
taught by practices such as a sharing circle where all stakeholders join hands
for a minute and say a prayer and then share different learning or experiences
with each other. This is a powerful way of healing, increasing awareness and
learning to be in the present moment at least for some time during the day.

Ethics
and decision making

Finally,
long term success is possible only when leaders are ethical about the choices
they make. Most senior leaders will come to cross roads and ethical dilemmas
will color every journey. In today’s complex work place it is important to
teach students exactly what constitutes a white collar crime and how
far-reaching the repercussions of seemingly innocuous acts could be. While
ethics cannot be ‘taught’ to this age group but the factors influencing
decision making and self leadership definitely can be part of their learning
experience. Today theatre experts are joining hands with leadership schools to
help students appreciate the difficulty that real world ethical dilemmas can
pose. They get a better understanding of themselves and can apply this to a
real world situation when it comes their way. An innovative course for this
aspect is GVV (Giving Voice to Values) – developed by Babson in partnership
with Yale and Aspen. As the name suggests it raises the question of speaking up
for what you know is right and teaches this through a combination of case
studies, discussions, coaching and role play. There are several case studies
being deployed as part of courses such as governance, corporate policy, ethics
in the workplace and these make for excellent discussion. In these discussions,
students appreciate that there are varied points of view and learn to work with
an open mind. These discussions also give participants a platform to talk about
their value system and this too strengthens their beliefs.

These
skills of compassion, mindfulness and ethics are what make leaders inspiring.
Their joy is maximized in heightening their compassion, being self aware and
understanding the grey areas of decision making in an ethical context.

Gandhi
said in 1930 that “There is not a single virtue which aims at, or is content
with, the welfare of the individual alone. Conversely, there is not a single
moral offence, which does not affect many others besides the offender. Hence,
whether an individual is good or bad is not merely his own concern but really
the concern of the whole community and of the whole world.” If future leaders
study carefully and imbibe the principles of compassion, mindfulness and
ethics, the entire eco-system will be revitalized and we will all accomplish
more than we could have thought possible.”

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