Humanity is facing a crisis of moral leadership - men and women of character who can choose wisely and well in the difficulties, dilemmas and complexity of contemporary business and government.
One of the biggest risks we face today is an assumption that because people share or subscribe to our corporate values, that they in fact share our moral perspective. Enron, LIBOR, AWB, unanswered questions at Note Printers Australia, and any number of examples would indicate immediately that is not the case.
The public travails of St John’s College and its students throw into stark relief the need to ask questions of potential employees to gain an insight about their moral outlook. It would be foolish of any organisation to assume that academic prowess equates with sound character.
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Is it right that foreign employees of an Australian company get paid Third World wages while foreign managers of the same company get paid first-world salaries?
Do we still believe in the principle of equal pay for equal work? Or is it a case of George Orwell’s famous line in his novel Animal Farm to the effect that we are all equal but some are more equal than others?
All good questions as Australian companies are increasingly shifting operations offshore. We are told that Australian wages and salaries are too high and that moving offshore will “save” the company money by cutting labour costs.
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It’s a management case study that will live on in textbooks for decades.
Just weeks after banning employees from leaving post-it notes on computers or eating lunch with strong odours, resources giant BHP has announced a whopping great profit of $A22.5 billion, up 85.9 per cent.
Of course it wasn’t only the absence of messy post-it notes that pushed profits into the stratosphere. There was also the company’s nation-wide crackdown on jackets slung over the backs of chairs. Oh, and record prices for Australian coal, iron ore and gas.
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Have a guess how many of Australia’s top 50 companies have at their very heart a good idea.
Not mineral resources, selling other people’s goods or repackaging money in increasingly intricate ways, but an actual good idea which spawned the genesis of a new business.
It’s a pretty easy answer - none.
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