One of the most pertinent topics we discuss in business school is values-based leadership. As we grow and develop into the next generation of leaders, it is important to ground our actions and decisions in ethical behaviour. Too often do we hear in the news of managers failing to do this (Enron, SNC-Lavalin, JPMorgan). To help foster character development in our program, the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie has become one of Canada’s leaders in furthering values-based leadership. Through faculty support and student initiatives, Dalhousie MBA students are given the best opportunities to put these ethical attributes into action, and to apply what we learn in the classroom.
Overseen by Dean Peggy Cunningham, the Faculty of Management has developed a set of guiding principles for ethical behaviour, summarized with the acronym IDEAS: Integrity, Diversity, Experience, Action, and Sustainability. This inspired the inception of Ethics in Action, an annual conference that is built upon the Dalhousie Business Ethics Case Competition (DBECC). Now in its second year, Ethics in Action brings students and ethical leaders from across the country together to discuss relevant topics and to generate thought-provoking conversations around ethics. Ethics in Action has four components: a case competition for undergraduate and graduate business students, a video and essay contest on ethical leadership, the presentation of the Scotiabank Ethical Leadership Award to a Canadian business leader, and a one day conference that is open to the public. This year’s event was held this past weekend, and once again saw great attendance and incredible participants.
Ethics in Action is not only for those attending events, but is also an opportunity for students to exercise their learned leadership skills. This year’s event was run by a group of my classmates, six second-year Corporate Residency MBA students. I spoke with some of them to learn about their experience with organizing an event of this size and nature. Kathleen Leadbeater, Chair of the Leadership Team, and Josh Mitton, Director of the Case Competition, shared their experiences with me.
Emily: What motivated you to become part of Ethics in Action?
Kathleen: When I first heard about the Ethics in Action initiative, I was very interested in becoming involved. I think it’s important to highlight the importance of ethical behavior in the business world, and to increase awareness of how to conduct business in an ethical and sustainable manner. I volunteered during the inaugural event and found the experience to be very rewarding, and I knew that I wanted to take on a bigger role this year. This led me to apply for the position of Chair of the Leadership Team for the 2014 event.
Josh: I had volunteered for the previous year’s conference, and I really got behind what the event was all about. It’s great to see schools participating from all over the country, coming here to Halifax to compete about a not-so-talked about subject in business.
Emily: What part of this experience has surprised you?
Kathleen: The one thing that has surprised me the most throughout the process is how quickly time flies. We have been organizing the event for almost a year, but it still somehow feels like yesterday that we all found out we would be on the organizing committee for the 2014 event. Before you know it, preparations for next year’s event are going to begin!
Josh: The people who we’ve asked to help make the event a success genuinely care about what we are doing, and support the team and the project above and beyond what’s expected of them. I was pleasantly surprised to see such community support!
Emily: Why should students get involved in Ethics in Action?
Kathleen: I think that students should get involved with the initiative because there are so many things that they can get out of the experience other than just a volunteer opportunity. It’s a great way to work on skills such as communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and many more. The extra curricular experiences that students have while in the CRMBA program are the memories that they are going to remember long after they complete the program.
Josh: People have different opinions about ethics, especially when it comes to business practices. I think it is such a rich topic with many opinions and no black and white answers. It creates great conversations and can help students make tough decisions when they get out into the “real world”.
Take a look at the winners and photos from this year’s event!