Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What will your legacy be?

Business Ethics is one of those classes that most people expect to be a total fluff class, where you just talk about how business isn't all about making money because that's what you think you're expected to say.  What you say in Ethics class about a business decision may be very different from what you say about that same decision in Finance class.  But one of the reasons I came to Darden is the curriculum's focus on building an enterprise-wide perspective.  And that means not isolating decisions in one class, but considering any business decision we're faced with by bringing in the perspective of all of our classes.  

The first year Business Ethics course is a great example of how Darden operationalizes this.  Not only do our Ethics professors make guest appearances in our finance and decision analysis classes, but we're also pushed to develop a consistent point of view across the decisions we make in all of our classes.  So if you said you would pursue an oil drilling project in a finance class, it's because you've not only considered your shareholders' likely response to the outcomes of your decision, but also because you believe it will have a positive (or at least not negative) impact on your customers' perception of your brand, on your employees' trust in your management, and on your ability to act according to your own morals.

To that end, our most recent assignment for Ethics class was to answer the prompt below about what we hope our personal legacy will be.  At the end of our careers, what aspects of our characters will have governed our decision-making?  It wasn't until writing this paper out that I truly valued the fact that we were given the time (and accountability of a grade) to focus on this.  I wanted to share it for a few reasons: first, to show a little of who I believe I am; second, to spark some debate since I believe that a few of my goals are in opposition to each other; third, to create some public accountability for what I hope to hold myself to; and fourth, to encourage others (outside of other Darden FYs, like Kenny, Shaheli, Michael, Jenny, Jon, Rohan, Rachel, Genie, Gloria, or Yachna, who also had to write this same paper) to explicitly think about what legacy they hope to create for themselves.

What legacy of responsible leadership will you hopefully leave behind? What will those closest to you – your family, your trusted colleagues, your friends, your business associates – have learned from you?
When I look back at the end of my career, I want to be able to say that I stayed true to my core beliefs. That I wasn’t afraid to raise my voice when I saw something I didn’t agree with. That I didn’t just walk away from a situation I felt uncomfortable about, but stayed and fought to fix it. But that I would have walked away from a situation I did not believe was resolvable.

And I want to be able to say my opinion was sought after exactly because of that. That I was known for making the tough decisions, but for doing so only after carefully considering all possible angles and outcomes. That I was not known for rash decisions or blindly following my gut.

But I also want to be known for my moxie. That I took risks, had fun, was spontaneous, and truly enjoyed what I put my mind to achieving. That I inspired that excitement in others around me.

I want to be known for not being afraid of making mistakes and for always trying to learn from those ahead of and behind me.

I want to be respected for my compassion, and my desire to help others around me to learn and to improve. That I went out of my way to become a mentor to those who came after me.

And finally, I want to be known for being a successful business woman. Not a business person, but a business woman. That I found a way to challenge our societal and institutional norms that currently make being a successful mother and a successful business woman a trade-off.

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