Why We Need An MBA Oath

Posted 05.21.2010

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?