Business Leaders: The New Boogeyman

January 15, 2016

(Jan. 15, 2016) - First, I want to welcome our students back from the fall break. I hope you are prepared and eager to begin a new semester.

A new year has come and with it new personal challenges. Many of you may have resolutions to recreate the inner or outer you: spend more time with family, learn a new skill, or discover the gym again. I offer you another challenge, one of heart and mind: a test of ethics.

I was recently interviewed by San Antonio Magazine on the erosion of the global view of business people and what we can do to temper this attitude. In the article, I am quoted as saying business people are the new boogeyman. I believe there is truth in that statement; the lack of ethical considerations by few has harmed the professional credibility of many.

In 2001, the Enron scandal broke and we dove into the divisiveness of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling; c-suite executives were on the chopping block. In 2008, The Great Recession moved the public scorn to hedge fund managers, brokers and bankers. Most recently, Martin Shkreli and big pharma inspired the national outrage. Each time, a nation collectively gathered their proverbial pitchforks and roared for accountability.

Business people are not lurking in the shadows waiting to steal the elderly’s pensions. In fact, only a small percentage has contributed to the idea’s matriculation. However, we are still confronted by the ethical earthquake that shakes the public’s confidence in business.

As students, you are the future stewards of the business world. The values you hold closely will drive the ethos that influences organizational decisions and practices. For 2016, I challenge you to think about the ways you infuse your values into your studies, relationships and goals. Many of your courses have ethical discussions embedded in the lectures. I ask you to pay close attention to the discourse you have with your peers on ethical issues. Talk about the ethical challenges you may face in the evolving business world and how you can work together to make a positive impact upon it.

I want you to know that the administration, faculty and staff in the H-E-B School of Business & Administration have also had these discussions. We understand the importance of teaching students about the confluence between business and ethics.

As Cardinals, you are taught to view the world in greater terms than just yourself. The UIW Mission of social justice is driven by a tenet of service, service based on making ethical decisions that focus on the well being of the community.

It is up to you to change the boogeyman into a hero once again.