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Archive for July, 2011

In reading the modern literature on management leadership and business ethics, it appears that the virtue of justice receives little discussion.  Aristotle stated that ‘all virtue is summed up in dealing justly’.  Ben Franklin stated that in regard to justice “wrong none by doing injuries or by omitting the benefits that are your duty”.

Is justice a virtue for the modern business leader?  Here are thoughts from a few others.

Justice in the Workplace. A just employer will pay their employees what they deserve. A just CEO won’t take a pay raise when his company loses money and when the company does make money, he will spread some of that wealth down to the workers who helped make that profit possible. Just employers also don’t cut corners, and don’t try to get their employees to work overtime without pay. They don’t try to cheat their employees out of benefits they have earned. In turn, just employees don’t cheat their employer by goofing off when they are being paid to work. They don’t call in sick when they are really nursing a hangover or simply playing hooky. (The Art of Manliness, The Virtuous Life: Justice, 2008)

Here is another perspective on justice and business:

Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues in classical European philosophy and Roman Catholicism. It is the moderation between selfishness and selflessness.

  • Justice is fair-mindedness — fair treatment and fair play.
  • Justice is equity — evenness.
  • Justice is a square deal — truth.
  • Justice is impartiality — consistency of viewpoint and attitude.
  • Justice is moral obligation — seen through to completion.

(Understanding Justice, Virtue.Info, 2011)

I think that my grandmother would agree that the virtue of justice (fairness, equity, truth, impartiality and moral obligation) were a foundation of my grandfathers’ success in business.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Today I start my quest to seek  a rebirth of the virtuous industry leader.   My forefathers were businessmen that valued the persons in their firms.  My father’s father owned and operated a  patternmaking factory in downtown Philadelphia.  [Pattern making is a skilled trade that is related to the trades of tool and die making and moldmaking, but also often incorporates elements of fine woodworking.]  I recall my grandmother telling many stories of how her husband truly valued his employees and how he would personally forgo his own financial gain in order to assure the livelihood of his loyal workers.

As we know, business today has become profit focused with a short term perspective.  Employees are viewed as resources that can be acquired and disposed.  Personal, compassionate relationships are discouraged.  Virtue has all but disappeared from modern industrial endeavors.

I begin my search for “business virtue” in Philadelphia.  I begin with Benjamin Franklin – a man known for “defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical and democratic values of thrift, hard work, education, and community spirit.”

I begin with the thirteen (13) virtues defined by Ben Franklin in 1726 at age 20:

  1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
These virtues may form the foundation of business virtue.  What do you think?
– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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It appears that the Wake Forest University Schools of Business are emphasizing the importance of faculty who are teacher-scholars.  We consistently hear  how scholarship positively influences teaching, yet it is amazing how few university’s attempt to link the two.    Why are there so few attempts to link scholarship and teaching?  In my opinion it raises some issues that many faculty don’t like to discuss.  Is a peer-reviewed teaching case scholarship?  Is a well-received college textbook considered scholarship?  Are faculty members that lead undergraduate research projects contributing to their teaching?  Their scholarship?   Is a faculty member that focuses their research on theoretical topics not related to the curriculum performing ‘good’ scholarship?

WFU’s School of Businesses web site states:

Faculty members at Wake Forest’s Schools of Business are outstanding teacher-scholars dedicated to delivering a dynamic and rigorous business education. Many are veteran professionals, who have worked and conducted research internationally, so they can give you firsthand insight into their own business and management challenges in class.

Wake Forest professors are also contributing to the development of new business knowledge; they are active researchers who publish in leading scholarly journals. Many develop cases, textbooks and new research–cutting-edge information that they bring into the classroom.

Wake Forest’s scholar-teachers encourage an international outlook, innovation, teamwork and ethical behavior, pushing students to articulate and support their positions in writing and presentations.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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