Professionalism in Business: Insights from Ancient Philosophy
Business schools have the responsibility to inspire professional culture in future managers. This means that they have to provide them not only with the expertise, knowledge and skills required in their field of specialization, but also with a sense of responsibility toward others and society at large. This need has been increasingly evident during the period of the global financial crisis, and a number of initiatives have been reported by business schools worldwide to address the issue.
In this paper we examine the issue of professionalism in business management from two perspectives: business practice, and relation to ancient philosophy. Drawing from the literature, we propose a framework defining professionalism as composed of three patterns: (a) possession of a systematic body of knowledge, (b) commitment to a good broader than self-interest, and (c) an overall ethical character of the activity and ethical conduct. We show how these patterns are reflected to the expectations that corporations have from business practitioners. We further demonstrate that substantial elements of business professionalism are strongly related to core values and principles introduced in the social and political thought of ancient philosophers, and thus suggest that ancient philosophy could be used as a means for inspiring professionalism in business managers.
KeywordsStakeholder Theory Corporate Social Performance Practical Wisdom Moral Virtue Business Conduct
- Andrews, K. (1969). Toward professionalism in business management. Harvard Business Review, 47(2), 49–60.Google Scholar
- Barker, R. (2010). No, management is not a profession. Harvard Business Review, 88(7/8), 52–60.Google Scholar
- Bartol, K., & Martin, D. (1998). Management (international edition) (3rd ed.). New York: Irvin/McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
- Benetatou, M. (2011). Confucian and Aristotelian ethics: A global model for leadership. In Proceedings of international conference on ‘Leadership and management in a changing world: Aristotle and Confucius in modern society’, Athens.Google Scholar
- Blackburn, M., & McGee, P. (2004). Talking virtue: Professionalism in business and virtue ethics. Global Virtue Ethics Review, 5(4), 90–122.Google Scholar
- Brandeis, L.D. (1912). Business – A profession. An address delivered at Brown university commencement day, 1912 (published in System, October 1912). http://www.law.louisville.edu/library/collections/brandeis/node/203.
- Donaldson, T., & Preston, L. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence, and implications. The Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65–91.Google Scholar
- Donham, P. (1962). Is management a profession? Harvard Business Review, 40(5), 60–68.Google Scholar
- George, J., & Jones, G. (2004). Understanding and managing organizational behaviour (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Gilman, S. (2005). Ethics codes and codes of conduct as tools for promoting an ethical and professional public service: Comparative successes and lessons. Washington, DC: Prepared for the PREM, World Bank. Winter.Google Scholar
- Giovanola, B. & Fermani A. (2011). Ethics, economic organization, and human flourishing: Lessons from Plato and Aristotle. In Proceedings of international conference on ‘Leadership and management in a changing world: Aristotle and Confucius in modern society’, Athens.Google Scholar
- Gordon, K. & Maiko, M. (1999). Deciphering codes of corporate conduct: A review of their contents. Working papers on international investment: Number 1999/2, organization for economic co-operation and development (OECD), directorate for financial, fiscal and enterprise affairs. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/23/19/2508552.pdf.
- Guth, W., Steinman, M., Stohr, E., & Jin, H. (2011). White paper. Teaching normative ethical theory using an online quiz. Stevens Institute of Technology, Howe School of Technology Management.Google Scholar
- Hooker J. (1996). Toward professional ethics in business. Tepper School of Business. Paper 184. http://repository.cmu.edu/tepper/184.
- Kantrowitz, T. (2005). Development and construct validation of a measure of skills performance. PhD thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology – Department of Psychology, Atlanta. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/6861/kantrowitz_tracy_m_200505_phd.pdf?sequence=1.
- Khurana, R., & Nohria, N. (2008). It’s time to make management a true profession. Harvard Business Review, 10, 70–77.Google Scholar
- Khurana, R., Nohria, N., & Penrice, D. (2005). Management as a profession. In J. Lorsch, A. Zelleke, & L. Berlowitz (Eds.), Restoring trust in American business (pp. 43–62). Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Google Scholar
- Melé, D. (2012). The Christian notion of Αγάπη (agápē): Towards a more complete view of business ethics. In P. Prastacos, F. Wang & E. Soderquist (Eds.), Leadership through the Classics: Learning management and leadership from ancient East and West philosophy. Springer Berlin/Heidelberg.Google Scholar
- Mintzberg, H. (1990). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 68(2), 163–176.Google Scholar
- Moss, P. & Tilly, C. (1995). ‘Soft’ skills and race: An investigation of black men’s employment problems. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. http://epn.org/sage/rstill.html.
- OECD. (2001). Codes of corporate conduct: Expanded review of their contents. Directorate for financial, fiscal and enterprise affairs, Working papers on international investment, number 2001/6. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/24/1922656.pdf.
- Palencia, L. (2006). Pathways to professionalism. Presentation at the Association of MBAs 8th annual conference, Noordwijk, Netherlands.Google Scholar
- Pelegrino, E. (2002). Professionalism, profession and the virtues of the good physician. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 69(6), 378–384.Google Scholar
- Purkerson Hammer, D. (2000). Professional attitudes and behaviors: The ‘A’s and ‘B’s of professionalism. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 64, 455–464.Google Scholar
- Rarick, C. (2007). Confucius and management: Understanding Chinese cultural values and managerial practices. Journal of International Management Studies, 2(2), 22–28.Google Scholar
- Taylor, C. C. W. (1995). Politics. In J. Barnes (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Aristotle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Wood, D. (1991). Corporate social performance revisited. The Academy of Management Review, 16(4), 691–718.Google Scholar
- Zhang, C. (2011). Confucianism and market economy. In Proceedings of international conference on ‘Leadership and management in a changing world: Aristotle and Confucius in modern society’, Athens.Google Scholar