Ethical Change

We discuss change all the time in this space: Making effective change the right way. There was a great First Tuesday talk this week at the Carlson School about the need for change in the ethical approach we take as leaders.

Mark SheffertMark Sheffert’s talk was titled “Was Karl Marx Right?” Sheffert outlined the Marx thesis that capitalism would sow the seeds of its own destruction, as the elite’s greed for power and money would cause revolt. The revolt would replace capitalism with the communism – a more just economic form. Could this be happening right now?

The statistics are more than a bit frightening. In 1980, CEOs were paid 30-times more than their average employee. Today the ratio is 500 to 1. The richest 1% of the population increased their share of the pie by 7%. The top 25 hedge fund managers were paid over $25 billion – money that could have paid 600,000 teachers which could have taught over 13 million students. Oh yes…it happens in Minnesota too! Is the CEO of the state’s largest insurance company really worth the same as 1,200 nurses?

The numbers are startling and paint a damning picture of our stewardship. We have been entrusted with the resources of our society and it is our calling to make the best use of them. If we fail in our calling, our government believes it is their calling to protect the people from us.

Choice of pathsWhat is your choice? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? There is no middle ground. All of us have a role to play in rebuilding our ethical foundations from the ground up. Sheffert suggests the following first steps:

  • Speak up about misbehavior and wrongdoing. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that at some point “silence is betrayal.” It’s as true today as when he said it.
  • Volunteer to teach our youth about values and ethical behaviors. The transformation starts at the base. We can’t lose our next generation.
  •  Resolve excess executive pay. The fish rots from the head. Our leaders must show the way and demonstrate that they understand how to do the right things. At the same time, we must hold them accountable for their actions.
  • Lead the way to redefine success in more wholesome terms. Money and power do not need to be the key metrics.

Summit MeetingAre you ready to take a personal challenge? On November 12th, join the Minnesota Ethics Summit and become part of the movement. Contact Sara T. Paul for details at (651) 338-1302 or Touv0001@umn.edu.

It’s our time to make a difference. Join in the change!


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August 2010
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