HBS faculty began conceptualizing aspects of the Leadership and Accountability course in the late 1990s, in response to ethical issues managers were facing as a result of globalization, privatization, and new technologies, said Lynn Sharp Paine, the John G. McLean Professor of Business Administration at HBS and co-head of the course's faculty design team. At the same time, a faculty working group charged with examining the role of law in the MBA curriculum recommended strengthening the School's teaching of legal issues in business.

"Although we had been teaching a required ethics module in the first-year curriculum since 1988, we realized that greater depth was required to prepare students for the complex choices they will face," Paine explained. "The goal of Leadership and Corporate Accountability is not to propose a right set of answers, but to give students a framework for working through the issues."

According to members of the course's design team, "LCA stems from a belief that business leaders play a crucial role in society. They and the companies they build and lead are expected to deliver strong financial results for investors, superior goods and services for customers, attractive work environments for employees, and innovative ideas for the future. At the same time, they are expected to observe the laws of the countries in which they operate, respect society's ethical standards, and contribute to the communities of which they are part."

To reflect these multifaceted responsibilities, LCA is organized into three parts: the legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities of corporate leadership; the elements of organizational accountability; and the interface between personal values and responsible leadership. The first part of the course concerns managerial choices or dilemmas in dealing with a company's core constituencies: investors, customers, suppliers, employees, and the public. The second focuses on issues of organizational design and governance, such as choices about incentives, planning systems, and performance measures. The third part is about personal choices or dilemmas, including those that arise when an individual's values collide with those of a boss or the company where he or she is employed.

Taught by the case method, the course presents a broad selection of materials, including case studies that range from the rise and fall of Enron and the Bridgestone Corporation's massive tire recall in 2000 to the efforts of Malden Mills' founder Aaron Feuerstein to both care for his employees and rebuild his company in the wake of a devastating fire. Students also examine the corporate credo of Johnson & Johnson and its influence in the corporation's widely praised handling of a series of Tylenol poisonings in the 1980s, discuss Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," and wrestle with the role of business in addressing societal problems such as racism and the global AIDS pandemic.

Although much of LCA is new, it also draws upon decades' worth of work by faculty not only at Harvard Business School and Harvard University, but at other institutions, as well.

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Lynn S. Paine