Values-Driven Leadership: How to deal with ethical issues in the workplace

We caught up with Mary C. Gentile and Carolyn Plump to discuss the exciting new series, Giving Voice to Values and its first title Giving Voice to Values in the Legal Profession.

The Giving Voice to Values series is a collection of books on Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility that brings a practical, solutions-oriented, skill-building approach to the salient questions of values-driven leadership. Giving Voice to Values – the curriculum, the pedagogy and the research upon which it is based –was designed to transform the foundational assumptions upon which the teaching of business ethics is based, and importantly, to equip future business leaders to not only know what is right — but how to make it happen.

Giving Voice to Values in the Legal Profession, is the first title in this series. By providing twelve accessible scenarios drawn from real-life examples, this book walks readers through some of the most common ethical issues they will face in the workplace and how to address them in a manner that is realistic and effective.

There are two clear reasons to read Giving Voice to Values in the Legal Profession. First, it is practical. The book presents information that is readily useful to students as they move forwards in their personal lives and careers. Second, the book is concise and easy to add to an existing course. It can provide a context for discussing a myriad of issues around ethics in the legal profession.

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1. Congratulations to you both on the new Giving Voice to Values series, and its first title, Giving Voice to Values in the Legal Profession! How did you get involved in this?

Mary: Thank you! I developed the “Giving Voice To Values” about 10 years ago. Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is an innovative approach to values-driven leadership development in business education and the workplace. GVV is based at University of Virginia-Darden School of Business, having been launched by Aspen Institute as Incubator & Founding Partner, with Yale School of Management; then supported at Babson College 2009-16.Drawing on actual experience and scholarship, GVV fills a long-standing critical gap in the development of values-centered leaders.

GVV is not about persuading people to be more ethical. Rather GVV starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values, but that we also want to feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully. This pedagogy and curriculum are about raising those odds.

Rather than a focus on ethical analysis, the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) curriculum focuses on ethical implementation and asks the question: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?”

GVV has now had well over 1,020 pilots in educational and business settings on all seven continents. There is a database of over 5,000 GVV contacts, a little over half of which are educators. Pilot sites have included the U.S., Europe, Africa, India, China, Australia, Canada, Israel, United Arab Emirates, etc.

Designed for use in graduate business curriculum, the approach has also moved well beyond that. On the education side, GVV has been used in undergraduate, MBA and executive education in hundreds of business schools around the world. It has been a featured part of the United Nations Global Compact PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) programming and PRME has become a partner supporting GVV curriculum development on Anti-Corruption, with a recent initiative in India. A similar region-specific curriculum development initiatives in Egypt was supported by German University of Cairo and the ILO. Increasingly GVV is also being adapted for educational purposes beyond business (medicine, nursing, engineering, law, accounting, liberal arts).

I am thrilled to be launching the new Giving Voice To Values Book Series from Routledge/Greenleaf with Carolyn Plump’s book!

Carolyn: The book is a result of my own internal struggle with how to deal with ethical issues in the workplace and the academic context.

During my own education, I studied various theories that I felt could be manipulated to justify virtually any outcome, but did not provide a framework that could be applied in the modern workforce. I felt my only options were to remain silence, leave my job, or blow the whistle. None of which was satisfactory.

As an educator, I wanted to empower students to act on their values in a productive way. To do this, they needed a plan they could put into practice. A plan that would help them overcome all the logical reasons their minds conjured up for not acting. A plan they could use in the real world when jobs, money, careers, and reputations were at stake.

It was at this juncture in my academic career that I attended an ethics workshop where Dr Mary Gentile was speaking. Her approach provided the precise framework I was looking for.

After using the GVV approach with my undergraduate business students, I realized GVV was equally applicable in the legal context. Although lawyers receive a fair amount of ethics training, the training focuses on what is right or wrong, not how to take action when you want to act on your values. The book uses examples of common situations lawyers face during their careers and gives them tools for acting on their values in a way that brings value to everyone involved.

2. What do you feel is the aim of this series and where do you see it heading?

Mary: I have already published/edited a number of books on Giving Voice To Values, including the book that launched the idea: Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right. I am excited to be launching this new GVV series with Routledge/Greenleaf wherein we will be publishing books that illuminate the many ways that we can effectively act on our values in a variety of contexts: different professions (business, law, medicine, etc.); different functions (accounting, marketing, etc.); different cultural contexts; and so on. My hope is to help empower and enable more of us to successfully enact values-driven leadership in every aspect of our lives.

3. Who would be interested in this series, as a potential author or reader?

Mary: The books in this series will be of interest to educators and students who will use them as course texts as well as ancillary readings; to individual professionals who wish to develop their own values-driven leadership capacity as well as that of their employees; and to corporate practitioners who wish to use them as guides for organizational development programming in ethics, leadership and across professions and functions.

4. What did you enjoy about writing the book?

Carolyn: What I enjoyed most about writing the book was the feeling that it could have tangible, practical value for others. As I thought back over my 20+ years of legal experience, I realized how common the ethical dilemmas I faced on a regular basis were in the legal industry. I saw that the mere act of writing about them and providing strategies for dealing with them could help others find productive solutions rather than being a source of stress and unhappiness within the practice of law. I truly believe the application of the GVV framework throughout the legal industry can help re-establish law as a noble profession with high ethical standards.

5. Finally, what other industries can we expect to see featured in this series?

Mary: New books will feature a focus on how to act ethically in the Accounting profession; in sustainability initiatives; in entrepreneurial ventures; among many other topics!

Series Editor, Mary C. Gentile

Mary C. Gentile, PhD, is Creator/Director of Giving Voice to Values, Professor of Practice at University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Senior Advisor at Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, and consultant on management education and leadership development. Among numerous other awards, Gentile was named as one of the “Top Minds 2017” by ComplianceWeek and one of the “Top Thought Leaders in Trust: 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners” by Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, January 2015. Giving Voice To Values also won the Bronze Medal in the 2017 Reimagine Education Ethical Leadership Awards.

Author, Carolyn Plump

Carolyn Plump obtained her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Duke University and her law degree from Boston University Law School. She currently teaches in the Management and Leadership Department at La Salle University’s School of Business. She teaches a variety of courses for both undergraduate and graduate students regarding ethics, leadership, contracts, business law, and globalization. Before joining La Salle University, she worked in private practice as a labor and employment attorney at several international and regional law firms. She also served as an Assistant Chief Counsel for the United State Senate’s Office of Chief Counsel for Employment and as a Deputy District Attorney in the Trial Attorney Partnership Program of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.