Are MBAs creating business leaders who lack ethics?

Are MBAs creating business leaders who lack ethics?

In the wake of the global financial crisis, many have wondered how much a Milton Friedman-inspired, pure economist approach to MBA studies has played a role in encouraging  – or discouraging  – the ethical behaviour of today’s business leader.

If we were to compare attitudes from the last decade, there is a strong contrast in how leaders with an MBA are viewed. A 2010 study from the US, which examined 416 CEOs of S&P 500 companies, found that companies headed by leaders with an MBA tended to have a higher corporate environmental performance rating than those without. Whereas, a 2017 study of 5,004 major US CEOs showed that those with MBAs were more likely to engage in self-serving actions that increased short-term profits, while damaging the long-term potential of the company.

While we can’t solely pin the blame on MBA programs for this shift, we can pose the question as to whether these courses are positively preparing students to tackle on-the-job ethical dilemmas. In many postgraduate courses, ethics is often a secondary focus – if a focus at all – and in most cases, it’s covered as a topic in a core subject or available as an elective. And whether students are asked to put these ethical values and principles into practice is largely left to the discretion of the course coordinator or assessor.

It’s becoming a trend for entrepreneurs to add positive social impact elements to their business models; the footwear company, TOMS, is a classic example of this. At the same time, our culture stresses tolerance and embracing one’s personal idea of what’s right to such a degree that it’s easy to feel unsure about where ethical boundaries should be drawn.

Many students genuinely desire to do what’s morally right, yet they may find themselves making decisions that are unethical, simply out of ignorance or uncertainty. Excelsia College’s distinctively Christian approach to business teaches students to hold strongly to a biblical moral compass, and recognise the underlying moral elements at play in so many business decisions.

Excelsia College’s online MBA course includes a specific unit on Professional Ethics, as well as others covering Stewardship and Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. Furthermore, throughout all our course units, students are required to think critically as well as practically about ethical issues. Our students are expected to deeply and seriously consider the ethical dimensions of cross-cultural business, managerial approaches, IT, marketing and more – all within a biblical framework.

The truth is – acting ethically may cost you some short-term gains in a world where these values aren’t viewed as critical. Yet, in the long run, incorporating these values into your everyday business procedures and processes can become genuinely profitable.

Our Student Enrolment team is available to discuss the benefits of an MBA online with Excelsia College on 1300 916 917, and how it can develop leaders who have peace of mind, knowing that their success can be built on principled foundations.