The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility

Ethics Specialist Named Dean of Harvard Business School

A professor who has been active for more than two decades in promoting business ethics has been named dean of Harvard Business School.

050310_Nohria_Nitin_022.jpgNitin Nohria, a member of the Harvard faculty since 1988, succeeds Jay Light, who will retire at the end of this academic year.

Nohria has been a faculty leader of the movement to adopt an MBA Oath, a voluntary pledge for graduating and current MBAs to “create value responsibly and ethically.”  The Oath now involves a coalition of MBA students, graduates and advisors, representing over 250 schools from around the world, and partnerships with the Aspen Institute and the World Economic Forum.

“Society's trust in business has certainly been shaken” Nohria said following the announcement of his appointment.  “My hope at Harvard Business School is to restore that trust in business and business education.”

Of the recent raft of business scandals, Nohria added: “There's something about the way that we began to run business that made the pursuit of short-term profit maximization more important than creating long-term sustainable businesses.”

Nohria has co-written or co-edited 16 books, and is author of more than 50 articles and dozens of teaching cases and notes.  He is past head of Harvard Business School’s required first-year "Leadership and Organizational Behavior" course, and he co-directed a team that designed a required first-year course on "Leadership and Corporate Accountability."

An Indian-born American citizen, Nohria is expected to also bring more global perspective to the Harvard program.  He recently taught in such executive education programs as "Building a Global Enterprise in India" and the "New CEO Workshop." Earlier this year, he was one of four instructors from Harvard Schools who co-designed and taught a January term workshop on "Faith and Leadership in a Fragmented World."

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3 Responses »

  1. First he is not an ethics expert. He worked on an oath. Here are the problems with an oath; first, it is an easy cover for the underlying problems with MBA programs and the ideology found in textbooks, the curriculum and among professors that support the attainment of wealth for the MBA and corporate stockholders. B-school professors have spoken against these oaths like Theo Vermaelen of INSEAD who sees oath’s as stupid and at odds with the fiduciary duty of business managers towards shareholders. These professors maintain that the manager’s job is the maximization shareholder wealth no matter what. Second, what one says in B-school and what ones does when they get into the executive corporate world many years later has little or no relationship. And, finally if one really wants to be clear about what one must do to oppose corruption and exploitation, this oath should include the following; “When I see corruption or exploitation I will blow the whistle and willingly take the risk that I will spend years in court, become financially ruined, and increase the likelihood that I will be forever unemployable.”

  2. Mr. Nohria's history ((http://www.hbs.edu/dean/)), with significant behavioural and leadership expertise certainly indicates that he is possessing of expertise in the study of ethics. In the practical application thereof, perhaps all he's done is create an oath, the swearing of a process that may be devoid of any meaning to those business people so swearing.

    Years of study focused on effective leadership and business practices, culminating in such a confirmation, don't seem sufficient to mitigate the common perception that business' will do anything to succeed. It's that perception (and reality perhaps) that this oath and it's adherence by new graduates will succeed in altering in time. Perhaps this oath will be that first step to empowering an ethical next generation?

  3. They should make them take the same oath as medical students: "First do no harm."

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