Navigating the moral maze: Key learnings from Joanne Kamau on ethics in the corporate jungle

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I had the privilege of attending a guest speaker session led by Joanne Kamau, CEO of Professional Marketing Services Group. Her topic: Ethics in a corporate setting. Here are the key takeaways that left me both introspective and empowered. I’ve put the lessons learnt into the context of what I’ve learnt during the semester and outside the class setting.

Ethics as a strategic advantage

Joan shattered the notion of ethics as a box-ticking exercise, reframing it as a strategic advantage. She emphasized that ethical behavior fosters trust, attracts, and retains top talent, and builds a loyal customer base. In a world obsessed with short-term gains, she argued, long-term success hinges on building a reputation for integrity and fairness.

Beyond compliance, cultivate conviction

Compliance is the bare minimum, she declared. True ethical leadership requires cultivating genuine conviction. This means embedding ethical principles into the company’s DNA (like the dress code for her employees), not just plastering them on a wall as a decorative afterthought. Leaders must lead by example, making tough choices that uphold their values even when profits whisper sweet temptations.

Embrace the grey areas

The business world isn’t black and white. She acknowledged the abundance of grey areas where clear-cut answers are elusive. Instead of shying away from these messy situations, she encouraged us to embrace them as opportunities to exercise ethical judgment. This means fostering open communication, encouraging dissent, and creating a safe space for employees to voice concerns without fear of reprisal.

Stakeholder value, not just shareholder value

Joan challenged the traditional focus on shareholder value as the sole metric of success. She argued that a company’s true worth lies in its impact on all stakeholders – employees, customers, communities, and the environment. This requires a shift in mindset, where profit becomes a means to an end, not the end itself. Businesses must strive to create shared value, ensuring their success benefits everyone they touch.

Building an ethical muscle

Just like any other skill, ethical decision-making needs practice. Joan encouraged us to flex our ethical muscles regularly. This means proactively discussing ethical dilemmas with colleagues, seeking diverse perspectives, and learning from mistakes. By constantly engaging with ethical issues, we build collective muscle memory, making it easier to choose the right path when faced with real-world challenges.

Joanne Kamau’s session wasn’t just a lecture, it was a call to action. It was a reminder that in the complex world of business, ethics aren’t a burden, but a superpower. By prioritizing them, we can build companies that are not just successful, but also embody ethical principles. I left the session with a renewed sense of purpose, eager to champion ethical leadership and navigate the corporate jungle with my moral compass firmly in hand as I look forward to commencing my Work Based Learning come January, 2024.

Article written by Kevin Iraya, a Bachelor of Financial Services (BFS) student. The article was originally a class activity.

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