Business Leaders: Ethics Starts from the Top
CEOs and executive consultants share insights with incoming classes
A commitment to values-based leadership runs deep at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.
Incoming students are aware of this as soon as they step through the doors and sign the Student Ethics Pledge, as they did on Sept. 7. The tradition of the student-initiated pledge dates back more than a decade and becomes a foundation in how they approach their personal and professional lives.
This commitment to ethics and integrity in business and personal life has powerful support among the School’s donors. Before the pledge signing, a first-of-its-kind panel discussion brought together several accomplished executives and consultants to share their experiences with the students.
“The real issue in ethics comes from the top,” said Mike Child, a senior advisor at TA Associates, one of the early modern-era private equity firms in the United States. “The leadership of a company is responsible.”
Other speakers shared the same sentiment.
“You have to decide what you’re going to stand for if you want to be a leader in a business,” said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer at Mars, Inc.
Moderated by Emma O’Rourke-Powell MBA 19, president of the Associated Students of Management, the discussion covered real-world examples of how principles of ethics and integrity have played major roles in decision making, with key insights into industries and organizations ranging from a private equity firm to an airline company, a food corporation and a technology company.
Art Ciocca, chairman of the board at The Wine Group, shared a lesson from when he took a stand as a young CEO in an industry infamous at the time for underhanded deal making.
“You have to decide what you’re going to stand for if you want to be a leader in a business.”
“We never did that and we lost a lot of business as a result,” said Ciocca. “But every single one of those companies are not in business today and we are the second-biggest company in our industry.”
Other panelists included:
- Paul Bianchi, Board and CEO Advisor, Human Capital and Leadership Consultant
- Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., CEO and Chairman, Allegiant Air
- Michael Hurlston, CEO, Finisar Corporation
- Steven Newberry, Chairman of the Board, LAM Research
Students came away from the luncheon with powerful examples of the defining role that ethics plays in business.