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Explorations in ethical leadership

By Viviane Fairbank

Ryerson University is adding a new Jim Pattison ethical leadership education and research program to its roster for next fall, an experimental branch which will attempt to develop and teach the role of ethics in business leadership.

Funds for the program come from a $250,000 donation from the Jim Pattison Group – one of Canada’s largest privately held companies.

The program’s first tier will offer leadership workshops to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as seminars to current business managers.

The second tier will involve funding research initiatives into this new area of business management.

Chris MacDonald, director of the ethical leadership program at the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre, explains that the program is envisioned as “a sort of umbrella project that is going to encompass some educational activities not courses, but weekend, evening, or half-day events for undergraduate and fuller MBA students.” Matt Fullbrook, manager of the Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics and Board Effectiveness at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, agrees that there is a new trend when it comes to management education.

“What gets taught in management schools gets boiled down into discreet categories – finance, accounting, consulting… the nuts and bolts. But leadership is a little less tangible. With the fact that management education is now much more focused on leadership, ethics is an even newer piece of that new piece,” he explained.

But MacDonald pointed out everyone has an individual definition of what ethical leadership means.

“One of the things we can say is that ethical leadership is not just about having someone at the top who is ethical, but also about how that ethical vision or commitment is translated… what it is you do to put your money where your mouth is,” MacDonald said.

Fullbrook said there is a growing job market for expertise in ethical business leadership.

“There’s a desire for leaders who are not just conscious about social ethics of business but are able to integrate those values in the way they’re leading their teams or organizations.

I think that there’s certainly an emerging need for that type of skill.” The program will have its official inauguration on Jan. 30.

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