Management And Accounting Web

Waddock, S. 2005. Hollow men and women at the helm ... Hollow accounting ethics? Issues in Accounting Education (May): 145-150.

Summary by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Education Issues Main Page | Ethics Main Page | Social Accounting Main Page

Although trust is a prerequisite to the efficacy of our market system, many leaders and financial advisers lack the integrity needed to gain and maintain the public's trust in corporations and their audited financial statements. This lack of integrity is rooted in the focus of business education on narrow disciplines and "cutthroat shareholder" or "corporate capitalism". The purpose of this paper is to recommend radical systemic changes in business and accounting education. Waddock argues that students need a specific set of skills as indicated below: (p. 148)

1. Individual and institutional integrity, responsibility, accountability, and transparency.

2. Systems thinking and systems dynamics, as well as synthetic and integrative thinking.

3. Initiation, risk-taking, and creativity.

4. The importance of self-efficacy, voice and confidence.

5. The ability to speak one's own mind while being sensitive to the perspective of others.

6. The ability to reflect on the implications of actions, decisions, attitudes, and behaviors.

7. The ability to understand the consequences of actions and, when needed, to take corrective action or change course.

8. Ecological awareness.

Five major elements need to be embedded in the new curriculum.

1. A sense of balance - Emphasis on a society rather than an economy.

2. Integration of body, mind, and heart - Management education needs to consider business in terms of society as a whole, rather than as a group of problems related to separate functional disciplines.

3. Holistic understanding - Managers and leaders need to understand that we live in a global village where everything is interdependent. Sustainable enterprise requires collaboration, particularly in the areas related to resource constraints and the ecosystem.

4. Respect for diversity - Values, cultures, consumption patterns, and ecosystem considerations are diverse in the global village. This requires the ability to analyze and synthesize multiple interest and constituencies.

5. A grasp of complex change - Constant and complex change requires leaders with conflict resolution and collaboration skills and "... the ability to be transparent, reflective, and open to responsibility and accountability" (p. 150).

Courses in the new curriculum should be society-centric and nature-centric, rather than corporate-centric. If we fail to institute these changes, we risk producing hollow men and women who continue to accept inequity, corruption, materialism, and wasted resources.

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