Those in positions of primacy are obligated to lead with well-thought out discretion.
Duff McDonald is the author of analyses of influential business entities, The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite, Last Man Standing (about Jamie Dimond post financial crisis 2008) and The Firm (about McKinsey & Co.), which could be treated as a triumvirate on power. He has also written for a wide range of publications, including for Vanity Fair, Fortune, Business Week, GQ and The New Yorker.
In researching The Golden Passport, McDonald discovered the long connection between the consulting group McKinsey he had previously spotlighted and HBS. The two have had close ties for the past 50 years of their 100 year history, with The Firm hiring MBAs from HBS.
McDonald’s talk at Baruch’s Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity on October 12th, is entitled “Don’t Look Back,” in tribute to Bob Dylan. Duff McDonald’s contention is that HBS, and BSchools in general, don’t pay enough attention to walk has come before and to the consequences of their present positions and actions. They do not live by the goals they set themselves, McDonald says. “Influence of a certain scale can be dangerous.” HBS, like McKinsey, rely on their reputation for the influence they have.
This can lead to great inequalities and many corruptions of the mission of a business entity. Ethics is often overlooked in the context of business training, even when it is paid lip-service.
McDonald acknowledges that not all the ills promoted by the financial industry, an industry which has drawn managers, CEOs, and business leaders from the ranks of Harvard’s MBAs, can be traced to HBS. There are other culprits, such as Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, for instance, who feel that the only role of corporations is to create profit, even at the cost of community and other values.
McDonald has another pet peeve with HBS and other institutions that seek to educate in business: the idea that conflates management with leadership. He wonders why schools of business, finance, accounting should be the ones who determine who is a leader?
What HBS does do is create capable managers, but their influence and reputation has been enduring and often negative. Be mindful of the hidden influences that can bloom from large, sometimes inflated, reputations when we are not paying attention to consequences.
Paying it forward: Mary C. Gentile will discuss Giving Voice to Values on October 31st.