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Why We Need An MBA Oath

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Mba-oath-book You may have heard about The MBA Oath. It was created by a couple of Harvard Business School students last year and has spread to business school campuses around the world and led to a book on the topic. As the Financial Times reports, it’s supported by the new dean of Harvard Business School but a significant percentage of the students there won’t be taking the oath on Class Day this year. Some say it’s not necessary, others say it’s cheesy. 

You can read the entire oath at mbaoath.org. For now, here are some selected excerpts:

My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow.

Therefore, I promise that:
  • I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
  • I will understand and uphold, in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
  • I will report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
Oilslick1 So, is it pointless or cheesy for future business leaders (or leaders in any sector for that matter) to take such an oath? Watch this report from 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley about the connection between management decisions and the oil rig blowout that led to the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and then see what you think. What difference might it have made if the leaders of BP started their meetings by standing up and repeating The  MBA Oath? Would it have made a difference in the way things developed? Who knows?

One thing I do know, however, is (as I wrote here a few weeks ago) what doesn’t get said, doesn’t get heard. If the MBA Oath causes even a few leaders to stand up and say out loud how they intend to conduct themselves then it was worth the effort of writing and promoting it.

That’s what I think. What do you think?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna May 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I am not against an oath, but I think either you have integrity or you don’t. Taking an oath is not going to fill those who lack integrity with it.


Deb May 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

I don’t comment on these often, but this one caught my eye. We all need a code of conduct to live by, taking an oath and speaking words aloud has power. It is one of the reasons our country has the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”. Many of us grew up in a time when promises meant something and with many of us those promises are still binding. Those individuals that think the oath is cheesy, their promises are just as cheesy. These are the people with the philosophy that took a moment of silence out of the schools and wanted the Pledge banished. These are the people that now take Ethics as a course in school because they were not taught it at home. These are the people that take for granted the cornerstones of what our parents and grandparents built this country. We the people need to take our country back by turning back the clock to a day when morals and integrity meant more than a lust for power and wealth. We need to cherish each other by realizing it doesn’t cost anything to be kind, respectful and honest. Taking an oath memorializes that sentiment each time it is spoke or read. Yes, we need an oath to remind us every day of who we are and what we aspire to become.


Carol May 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

I believe that every professional discipline should have such an oath and should not only state it aloud, but should also have a copy of it where they can see it always. Without such promises, we get the types of business leaders that have caused the financial mess we’re in right now.


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