Executives Learn Ethics the Hard Way: From Marines

January 29, 2013

Sunlight was filtering through the trees as the team trudged up yet another hill to the final objective of the morning.

The mission was simple. The team was to meet with a local village priest and establish a relationship.

The plan quickly fell apart when the group realized the solemn ceremony they had been invited to was a forced "wedding" in which a bride whose hands were bound by rope was carried screaming into a tent.

Now they were faced with a choice. Protect the woman from possible harm and alienate an important ally or allow the wedding to take place and avoid interfering in a culture they barely understood.

"I was torn," said Elton Mile, a 28-year-old financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, who led the team.

Mile was part of a group of executives who came to the Marine Corps base here as part of a three-day course to learn ethical leadership from combat leaders. In the wake of the Enron debacle, the collapse of Lehman Bros., Bernard Madoff and other moral lapses, business schools are re-examining ethics training. Traditionally, business schools have taught the skills needed to maximize profits, and given short shrift to softer subjects, such as ethics.

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