The GOOD 100: MBA Oath

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The GOOD 100: MBA Oath The GOOD 100: MBA Oath
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The GOOD 100: MBA Oath

by Joe Ippolito

October 16, 2009

Pledging Goodbye to Business as Usual

How Harvard's MBA oath changes the gameAt last year's Harvard Business School graduation, more than half of the students took a new student-authored MBA Oath, a pledge to "serve the greater good" and to "act with utmost integrity"-promises that, after the last few years, you might not associate with future CEOs. Here is what three of the oath's creators, Max Anderson, Teal Carlock, and Jon Swan, had to say about it. -Joe IppolitoGOOD: How did the idea start?Teal Carlock: We were discouraged to learn that the public had lost faith in business. According to surveys, a lot of people have come to see MBAs as the Darth Vaders of society-individuals who brought on the financial crisis through their own greed.Jon Swan: It turns out that two of our professors had been working on a professional oath for managers. They let us borrow their draft, we edited it together, and we launched an online campaign to get our classmates to sign.G: How has the response been?JS: More than 50 percent of our graduating class took the oath. Now students from more than 200 business schools around the world have signed it, and we are going to launch student-led chapters at some of the world's top business schools.G: Any reaction from corporations?TC: We have heard of at least two investment banks that have incorporated aspects of the oath into their training. I think there is a growing belief that things need to change. The oath offers a helpful blueprint.G: How do you see it translating into action?Max Anderson: First, it can be used as a tool to frame business judgments. Too many managers only ask, "How can I boost the share price the most in the short term?" They should instead ask how they can best build a healthy, profitable company for the long haul. Second, the oath will hold people accountable to their publicly stated values–if you go on a diet and don't tell anyone, you'll fall off the wagon sooner or later. Finally, we hope it will serve as a guide in gray areas where judgment is required. It is difficult to choose to do the harder right rather than the easier wrong, but that is what we want business leaders to do. Learn More To take the MBA oath, visit mbaoath.org.
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