Kabrina Chang in Bloomberg Businessweek: Ethical Leadership Starts With a Student

in Faculty, Faculty in the News, News
December 19th, 2013

In the real world, Kant can’t help (but here’s what does)

Kabrina Chang understands that no amount exposure to the subject of ethics will deter future Bernie Madoffs. Businesspeople aren’t likely to draw on some long-ago class for guidance, she admits. But Chang also understands that in order to produce socially responsible leaders, ethics must hold a place in management education.

The assistant professor of business law and ethics writes in Bloomberg Businessweek that a more comprehensive approach to the subject of ethics must be taken—an approach that doesn’t attempt to turn students into moralists like Kant, but one that gives students practical techniques for resisting pressure. Chang spotlights the School’s own approach to integrating ethics into education:

Our focus at Boston University School of Management is not to provide the final word on right and wrong. Nor are we trying to turn students into moral philosophers, though they are exposed to the major schools of ethical reasoning from Aristotle to Kant to Jeremey Bentham and John Rawls. What we are trying to do is provide undergraduate and graduate students with ethical frameworks they can use in decision-making—the tools needed to recognize and consider the ethical dimensions of decisions—just as we provide them with the tools for doing strategy or finance.

The first management class all undergraduates must take is Business, Society, and Ethics, where they initially encounter ethical frameworks in the context of global management and the complicated analysis necessary for making appropriate decisions. An ethical framework is a decision-making model. For example, Bentham’s Utilitarianism tells us to make decisions that benefit the greatest good.

We are looking at how best to integrate ethics into all required courses. Specific business disciplines will immerse students in the kinds of dilemmas that are likely to arise. For example, in marketing classes students may be asked to decide how to market a snack product for children as all-natural when it is actually not healthy because it is high in sugar. Though many professors have explored ethics in these classes, the approach has been uncoordinated. We believe that the consistency provided by common decision-making tools and language will create an indelible educational experience.

Read the full piece here.