Author: Rosenberg, John S.
Source: Harvard Magazine
Number of pages: 10
Leadership and Corporate Accountability (LCA) is a full-semester course required of all Harvard M.B.A. students. It thus complements first-semester courses in such expected skills as finance, marketing, and financial reporting and control, and second-term courses in strategy, negotiation, the international economy, and entrepreneurship. Mandating such a course, which few other American business schools do, reflects an ambitious view not only of what management leaders ought to know beyond the economics of their enterprises, but also of the most effective ways to teach this perspective to financially focused young people.
At the most basic level, LCA aims to “give students a deep practical understanding of the responsibilities of business leadership,” says McLean professor of business administration Lynn S. Paine, who helped design and now heads the course. And because this is education for a profession, the course then challenges students to examine “How do you make good on those responsibilities in a world that is often unclear, constantly changing, and decidedly unforgiving?”
In this large sense, LCA is an important statement about contemporary ethical education. Learning about norms of conduct has long been fundamental for students and practitioners in patient- and client-centered professions such as medicine and law. But in secular liberal-arts settings, the role of such education is far less defined: witness the College’s debate about revising undergraduate studies, which might include eliminating the current “moral reasoning” component. The business school’s challenge lies between these poles: broadening students’ perspectives as they prepare for a career where results are often measured by quarterly earnings, but where practice is guided by informal rules and the varying cultures of individual organizations.