What Knowledge is Useful? > People
Video clip — Kim B. Clark (Dean 1995-2005) on Leadership and Corporate Accountability
The LCA course emerged out of a very interesting process that itself went back quite some years. We had created in our Foundations program, which was launched prior to my becoming Dean, part of Leadership and Learning, which was really—kind of took flight in about 1992. We had created a module as part of Foundations on—first on decision making and ethical values, and then on leadership values, and decision making. It's kind of changed its name a couple times. But the basic idea was to give our students an introduction to ethics, and values, and their role in decision-making.
As we got further along in understanding what was important in leadership, we felt that there was a real need in the curriculum for a course that was deeper and more extensive in its treatment both of ethics at the individual level, but also at the institutional level. And that coincided with a lot of work going on in the faculty in second year courses. And let me just highlight a couple of them.
One was Bob Simons's course on boundaries and levers of control that really illuminated how, in an organization, the values of the organization get expressed in its systems. The second initiative, of course, was Lynn Paine's work on ethics, particularly across countries and cultures. And she'd done a lot of work on that.
There were some other things. There were things going on in CCMO, other courses that had really informed this question of: how do organizations create not just people who have good values, but a whole institutional framework that encourages people to do the right things in the right way? And so that led to a whole project led by a team. Lynn Paine was involved in that, Hank Reiling, Tom Piper, a number of other people, to try to scope out what should we do.
But I think the hero in this story is Carl Kester. Because Carl was running the MBA program at the time, and we charged—in the Operating Group we charged Carl with the responsibility of kind of crafting and guiding this whole effort, because it was very controversial in the faculty. And so Lynn—if my memory serves me right, Lynn and Tom Piper, and Nitin Nohria were the three that kind of spearheaded the intellectual work on pulling these ideas together into a coherent framework. But Carl really led the effort with the faculty. And it was an effort. I mean, it took a lot of work. It was a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions, a lot of back and forth.
But I think the faculty came to appreciate that this course was not Sunday School. It wasn't a kind of preaching to the students. But it really dealt with fundamental issues in leadership. That is, how do you create, in an organization, a set of processes and systems that speak to the fundamental responsibilities of senior leadership? Responsibilities to shareholders, responsibilities to customers, to the public, to society, responsibility to your employees. That there are a fundamental set there that really require that the organization understand its values, and express them in its decisions and in its systems.
And that's what LCA ended up being about. And I think the faculty, after a long time—and there was a lot of—it wasn't just a political kind of back and forth. It was really an intellectual debate about what should we be teaching, and what can we teach, and what's appropriate.
I think part of the controversy also centered on the fact that this is a quite difficult course to teach. That it cuts across so many disciplines; economics, psychology, accounting, control systems, compensation systems, strategy, governance, all sorts of stuff. That it was a daunting prospect to imagine that we could launch this and do it, but the faculty eventually bought it, and it was an overwhelmingly positive vote. Because we had to vote it in, because the idea was this was going to become part of the required curriculum. And the required curriculum in the School is like the crown jewels. And so you don't get in there without the whole faculty saying, "Yes, this is something we want to put in the required curriculum."
And that's—I credit Carl with the—with that effort, and he just did a terrific job. And I think also in an important sense, people really trusted Carl. Carl's pretty hardnosed. He's not—he doesn't have a reputation as being an easy sell. But he believed in this course. He thought it was important to do, and it came about, and I think has proven to be a great success.