textbook is ;
business ethics as rational choice
Evaluate the choices faced by Steve Lewis, Peter Adario, and Eduoard Sakiz (in Badaracco’s article) from the standpoints of the generalizability, utilitarian, and virtue ethics tests. Does Badaracco’s concept of character illuminate Hooker’s discussion of integrity? Can organizations exhibit character, integrity and virtue? [ 4 pages, typed.
Character is forged at those defining moments when a manager must choose between right and right. THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER BY JOSEPH L. BADARACCO. JR. W E HAVE ALL EXPERIENCED, a t one time or another, situations in which our professional responsibilities unexpectedly come into conflict with our deepest values. A budget crisis forces us to dismiss a loyal, hardworking employee. Our daughter has a piano recital on the same afternoon that our biggest client is scheduled to visit our office. At these times, we are caught in a conflict between right and right. And no matter which option we choose, we feel like we’ve come up short. ARTWORK BY CRAIG FRAZIER 115 THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER Managers respond to these situations in a variety of ways; some impulsively “go with their gut”; others talk it over with their friends, colleagues, or families; still others think hack to what a mentor would do in similar circumstances. In every case, regardless of what path is chosen, these decisions taken cumulatively over many years form the very basis of an individual’s character. For that reason, I call them defining moments. What is the difference between a tough ethical decision and a defining moment? An ethical deciTo become leaders, managers need to translate their personal values into calculated action. sion typically involves choosing hetween two options: one we know to be right and another we know to he wrong. A defining moment, however, challenges us in a deeper way by asking us to choose between two or more ideals in which we deeply helieve. Sueh challenges rarely have a “correct” response. Rather, they are situations created hy circumstance that ask us to step forward and, in the words of the American philosopher John Dewey, “form, reveal, and test” ourselves. We form our character in defining moments hecause we commit to irreversihle courses of action that shape our personal and professional identities. We reveal something new ahout us to ourselves and others because defining moments uncover something that had been hidden or crystallize something that had been only partially known. And we test ourselves because we discover whether we will live up to our personal ideals or only pay them lip service. As I have interviewed and studied business leaders, I have found that the ones who are most satisfied with the way they resolve their defining moments possess skills that are left off most job descriptions. Specifically, they are able to take time out from the chain of managerial tasks that consumes their time and undertake a process of prohing self-inquiry-a process that is more often carried out on the run rather than in quiet seclusion. They Joseph I. Badaracco, Jr., is the fohn Shad Professor of Business Ethics at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. This article is based on his most recent book. Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right, published by the Harvard Business School Press in i991- are able to dig below the busy surface of their daily lives and refocus on their core values and principles. Once uncovered, those values and principles renew their sense of purpose at work and act as a springboard for shrewd, pragmatic, politically astute action. By repeating this process again and again throughout their work Uves, these executives are able to craft an authentic and strong identity based on their own, rather tban on someone else’s, understanding of what is right. And in this way, they begin to make the transition from being a manager to becoming a leader. But how can an executive trained in the practical, extroverted art of management learn to engage in sucb an intuitive, personal process of introspection? In tbis article, I will describe a series of down-to-earth questions that will help managers take time out from the hustle and bustle of the workplace. Tbese practical, tbougbtprovoking questions are designed to transform values and beliefs into calculated action. Tbey have been drawn from well-known classic and contemporary philosophers but remain profound and flexible enough to embrace a wide range of contemporary right-versus-right decisions. By taking time out to engage in this process of self-inquiry, managers will by no means be conducting a fruitless exercise in escapism; ratber, they will be getting a better handle on their most elusive, cballenging, and essential business problems. In today’s workplace, three kinds of defining moments are particularly eommon. Tbe first type is largely an issue of personal identity. It raises the question. Who am I? Tbe second type is organizational as well as personal: botb tbe character of groups within an organization and the character of an individual manager are at stake. It raises the question. Who are we? The third type of defining moment is the most complex and involves defining a company’s role in society. It raises the question. Who is the eompany? By learning to identify each of these three defining moments, managers will learn to navigate rigbt-versus-right decisions with grace and strengtb. Who am I? Defining Moments for Individuals The most basie type of defining moment demands that managers resolve an urgent issue of personal identity that has serious implications for their careers. Two “rights” present themselves, each one representing a plausible and usually attractive life 116 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER choice. And therein lies the problem: there is no one right answer; rigbt is set against right. Conflicting Feelings. When caught in tbis bind, managers can begin by taking a step back and looking at the conflict not as a problem but as a natural tension between two valid perspectives. To fiesh out this tension, we can ask. What feelings and intuitions are coming into conflict in this situation^ As Aristotle discussed in his classic work Ethics, people’s feelings ean actually help them make sense of an issue, understand its hasie dimensions, and indicate what the stakes really are. In other words, our feelings and intuitions are both a form of intelligence and a source of insight. Consider, for example, the case of a young analyst-we will call him Steve Lewis-who worked for a well-known investment bank in Manhattan.’ Early one morning, Lewis, an African-American, found a message on his desk asking if he could fly to St. Louis in two days to help with a presentation to an important prospeetive client. The message came as a surprise to him. Lewis’s eompany had a clear policy against including analysts in presentations or client meetings. Lewis, in fact, knew little about the subject of the St. Louis meeting, which concerned a specialized area of municipal finance. He was especially surprised to learn that he had been selected over more senior people in tbe public finance group. Lewis immediately walked down tbe hall into the office of his friend and mentor, also an African-American, and asked him if he knew about the situation. His friend, a partner at the eompany, replied, “Let me tell you what’s happening, Steve. Look at you and me. What do we have in eommon? Did you know that the new state treasurer of Missouri is also black? I hate for you to be introduced to tbis side of the business so soon, hut the state treasurer wants to see at least one black professional at the meeting or else the company has no ehance of being named a manager for this deal.” What if at this point Lewis were to step back and reframe tbe situation in terms of his feelings and intuitions? On the one hand, Lewis believed firmly that in order to maintain his self-respect, he had to earn his advancement at the company – and elsewhere in life. He was not satisfied to move up the ladder of success based on affirmative action programs or being a “token” member of the company. For that reason, he had always wanted to demonstrate through his work that he deserved his position. On the other hand, as a former athlete, Lewis had always prided himself on being a team player and did not believe in letting bis teammates down. By examining his feelings and intuitions about the To resolve their toughest business challenges, executives need to refocus on their core values. situation, Lewis learned that the issue at band was more complex than whether or not to go to the presentation. It involved a conflict between two of his most deeply held beliefs. Deeply Rooted Values. By framing defining moments in terms of our feelings and intuitions, we can remove the conflict from its business context and bring it to a more personal, and manageable, level. Then we can consider a second question to help resolve the conflict: Which of the responsibilities and values that are in conflict are most deeply HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 117 THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER rooted in my life and in the communities 1 care aboutl Tracing the roots of our values means understanding their origins and evolution over time. It involves an effort to understand which values and commitments really mean the most to us. Let’s apply that approach to the ease of Steve Lewis. On the one hand, he bad no doubt that he wanted to hecome a partner at a major investment bank and that he wanted to earn that position based on merit. Since his sophomore year of college, Lewis had been drawn to the idea of a career on Wall Street, and he had worked hard and purposefully to make that idea a reality. When be accepted his current job, he had finally set foot on the path he had dreamed of, and neither the long hours nor the detailed “grunt” work that was the lot of first-year analysts gave him misgivings about his choice. He believed be was pursuing his own values by seeking a successful career at a Wall Street investment bank. It was the kind of life he wanted to live and the kind of work he enjoyed doing. On the other hand, when Lewis considered his African-American background, be thought about what his parents had taught him. One episode from the early 1960s stood out in particular. His parents made a reservation at a restaurant that reputedly did not serve blacks. Wben they arrived, the hostess told them there had been a mistake. Tbe reservation was lost, and they could not be seated. The restaurant was half empty. Lewis’s parents turned around and left. When they got home, his mother made a new reservation under her maiden name. (His father had been a popular local athlete, whose Self-inquiry must lead to shrewd, persuasive, and self-coiilident action if it is to be an effective tool. name was widely recognized.) The restaurant suspected nothing. When they returned an hour later, the hostess, though hardly overjoyed, proceeded to seat them. Lewis was still moved by tbe memory of what his parents had done, even as be sat in his office on Wall Street many years later. Witb his parents’ example in mind, Lewis could begin to sense what seemed to be tbe best answer to his present dilemma. He would look at tbe situation as his parents’ son. He would view it as an African-American, not as just another young investment hanker. Lewis decided that he could not go to the meeting as the “token black.” To do so would repudiate his parents’ example. He decided, in effect, that his race was a vital part of his moral identity, one with a deeper and stronger relation to his core self than the professional role he had recently assumed. Shrewdness and Expediency. Introspection of the kind Steve Lewis engaged in can easily beeome divorced from real-world demands. We have all seen managers who unthinkingly throw themselves into a deeply felt personal cause and suffer serious personal and career setbacks. As the Renaissance philosopher Niccolo Maehiavelli and other ethical pragmatists remind us, idealism untempered by realism often does little to improve the world. Hence, the next critical question becomes. What combination of shrev/dness and expediency, coupled with imagination and boldness, will help me implement my personal understanding of what is rights This is, of course, a different question altogether from What should I do? It acknowledges that tbe business world is a bottom-line, rough-and-tumble arena wbere introspection alone won’t get the job done. Tbe process of looking inward must culminate in concrete action characterized by tenacity, persuasiveness, shrewdness, and self-confidence. How did Lewis combine idealism witb realism? He decided tbat be would join tbe presentation team, but be also gambled that he could do so on terms that were at least acceptable to him. He told tbe partner in charge, Bruce Anderson, that he felt honored to be asked to participate but added tbat be wanted to play a role in the presentation. He said he was willing to spend every minute of the next 30 hours in preparation. When Anderson asked why, Lewis said only that be wanted to earn his place on the team. Anderson reluctantly agreed. There was, it turned out, a minor element of the presentation that required the application of some basic analytical teehniques with which Lewis was familiar. Lewis worked hard on the presentation, but when he stood up during tbe meeting for the 12 minutes allotted him, he had a terrible headache and wished he had refused Anderson’s offer. His single day of cramming was no substitute for tbe weeks his colleagues had THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER A GUIDE TO DEFINING MOMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS Who am I? LWhat feelings and intuitions are coming into conflict in this situation? 2. Which of the values that are in conflict are most deeply rooted in my life? 3. What combination of expediency and shrewdness, coupled with imagination and boldness, will help me implement my personal understanding of what is right? FOR MANAGERS OF WORK GROUPS Who are we? 1. What are the other strong, persuasive interpretations of the ethics of this situation? 2. What point of view is most likely to win a contest of interpretations inside my organization and influence the thinking of other people? 3. Have I orchestrated a process that can make manifest the values I care about in my organization? FOR COMPANY EXECUTIVES Who is the company? 1. Have I done all I can to secure my position and the strength of my organization? 2. Have I thought creatively and boldly about my organization’s role in society and its relationship to stockholders? 3. What combination of shrewdness, creativity, and tenacity will help me transform my vision into a reality? test, a rite of passage at his company, and had demonstrated not only that he was willing to do what it took to get the job done hut also that he would not he treated as a token memher of the group. The white analysts and associates who were passed over prohably grumbled a hit; but Lewis suspected that, if they had been dealt his hand, they would have played their cards as he did. Who Are We? Defining Moments for Work Groups As managers move up in an organization, defining moments beeome more difficult to resolve. In addition to looking at the situation as a conflict between two personal beliefs, managers must add another dimension; the values of their work group and their responsibilities to the people they manage. How, for example, should a manager respond to an employee who repeatedly shows up for work with the smell of alcohol on his breath? How should a manager respond to one employee who has made sexually suggestive remarks to another? In this type of defining moment, the problem and its resolution unfold not only as a personal drama within one’s self but also as a drama among a group of people who work together. The issue becomes public and is important enough to define a group’s future and shape its values. Points of View. Many managers suffer from a kind of ethical myopia, believing that their entire group views a situation through the same lens that they do. This way of thinking rarely succeeds in bringing people together to accomplish eommon goals. Differences in upbringing, religion, ethnicity, and education make it difficult for any two people to view a situation similarly-let alone an entire group of people. The ethieal challenge for a manager is not to impose his or her understanding of what is right on the group hut to understand how other members view the dilemma. The manager must ask. What are the other strong, persuasive interpretations of the ethics of this situation^ A classic example of this kind of prohlem involved a 3 5-year-old manager, Peter Adario. Adario headed the marketing department of Sayer Microworld, a distributor of computer products. He was married and had three children. He had spent most of his career as a successful salesman and branch manager, and he eagerly accepted his present position beeause of its varied challenges. Three senior managers reporting to Adario supervised the other 50 employees in the marketing department, and Adario in turn reported to one of four vice presidents at corporate headquarters. Adario had recently hired an account manager, Kathryn McNeil, who was a single mother. AlHARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 119 THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER though she was highly qualified and competent, McNeil was having a hard time keeping up with her work because of the time she needed to spend with her son. The pace at work was demanding: the company was in the middle of finishing a merger, and 6o-hoiir work weeks had become the norm. McNeil was also having difficulty getting along with her supervisor. Lisa Walters, a midlevel manager in the department who reported to Adario. Walters was an ambitious, hard-driving woman who was excelling in Sayer Microworld’s fast-paced environment. She Managers need to determine if their ethical vision will be supported by their coworkers and employees. was irritated by McNeil’s chronic lateness and unpredictable work schedule. Adario had not paid much attention to Walters’ concerns until the morning he found a handwritten note from her on top of his pile of unfinished paperwork. It was her seeond note to him in as many weeks. Both notes complained about McNeil’s hours and requested that she be fired. For Adario, who was himself a father and sympathetic to McNeil’s plight, the situation was clearly a defining moment, pitting his belief that his employees needed time with their families against his duty to the department’s bottom line. Adario decided to set up a meeting. He was confident that if he sat down with the two women the issue could somehow be resolved. Shortly before the meeting was to begin, however, Adario was stunned to learn that Walters had gone over his head and discussed the issue with one of the company’s senior executives. The two then had gone to McNeil’s office and had fired her. A colleague later told him that McNeil had been given four hours to pack her things and leave the premises. Where Adario saw right versus right, Walters saw right versus wrong. She believed that the hasic ethical issue was McNeil’s irresponsibility in not pulling her weight and Adario’s lack of action on the issue. McNeil’s customer account was crucial, and it was falling behind schedule during a period of near-crisis at the company. Walters also believed that it was unfair for one member of the badly overburdened team to receive special treatment. In retrospect, Adario could see that he and Walters looked at the same facts about McNeil and reached very different conclusions. Had he recognized earlier that his view was just one interpretation among many, he might have realized that he was engaged in a diffieult contest of interpretations. Influencing Behavior. Identifying competing interpretations, of course, is only part of the battle. Managers also need to take a hard look at the organization in whieh they work and make a realistic assessment of whose interpretation will win out in the end. A number of factors can determine which interpretation will prevail: company culture, group norms, corporate goals and company policy, and the inevitable political jockeying and battling inside organizations. In the words of the American philosopher William James, “The final victorious way of looking at things will be the most completely impressive to the normal run of minds.” Therefore, managers need to ask themselves. What point of view is most likely to win the contest of interpretations and influence the thinking and behavior of other people^ Peter Adario would have benefited from mulling over this question. If he had done so, he might have seen the issue in terms of a larger work-family issue within the company. For Adario and McNeil, the demands of work and family meant constant fatigue, a sense of being pulled in a thousand directions, and the frustration of never catching up on all they had to do. To the other employees at Sayer Microworld, most of whom were young and not yet parents, the work-family conflict meant that they sometimes had to work longer hours because other employees had families to attend to. Given the heavy workloads they were carrying, these single employees had little sympathy for Adario’s familyoriented values. Truth as Process. Planning ahead Is at the heart of managerial work. One needs to learn to spot problems before they blow up into crises. The same is true for defining moments in groups. They should be seen as part of a larger process that, like any other, needs to he managed. Effective managers put into place the eonditions for the successful resolution of defining moments long before those moments actually present themselves. For in the words of William James, “The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process.” Managers can start creating the conditions for a particular interpretation to prevail by asking. Have 1 orchestrated 120 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 ‘ I; THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER a process that can make my interpretation vidn in my groups Adario missed subtle signals that a process opposed to his own had been under way for some time. Recall that Walters had sent Adario two notes, each suggesting that McNeil be replaced. What were those notes actually ahout? Were they tentative announcements of Walters’s plans or tests of Adario’s authority? And what did Walters make of Adario’s failure to respond? She apparently interpreted his reaction-or lack thereof-as an indication that he would not stand in the way of firing McNeil. Walters may even have thought that Adario wanted McNeil fired but was unwilling to do it himself. In short, Adario’s defining moment had gone badly because Walters presented a compelling story to the company’s top management; she thereby preempted Adario and filled the vacuum that he had created through his inaction. Instead of waiting for the issue of work versus family to arise and take the group by surprise, Adario could have anticipated the problem and taken a proactive approaeh to defining a work culture that valued both family and work. Adario had ample opportunity to prevent the final turn of events from occurring. He could have promoted McNeil to others inside the company. In particular, he needed to emphasize the skills and experienee, espeeially in account management, that she brought to the company. He also could have created opportunities for people to get to know McNeil personally, even to meet her son, so that they would understand and appreciate what she was accomplishing. Playing to Win. One of the hallmarks of a defining moment is that there is a lot at stake for all the players in the drama. More often than not, the players will put their own interests first. In this type of business setting, neither the most well-meaning intentions nor the best-designed process will get the job done. Managers must be ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into the organizational fray, putting to use appropriate and effective tactics that will make their vision a reality. They need to reflect on the question. Am 1 just playing along or am I playing to win ^ At Sayer Microworld, the contest of interpretations between Walters and Adario was clearly part of a larger power struggle. If Walters didn’t have her eye on Adario’s job before McNeil was fired, she probably did afterward: top management seemed to like her take-charge style. Whereas Adario was lohbing underhand softball pitches, Walters was playing hardball. At Sayer Microworld, do-the-rightthing idealism without organizational savvy was the sure path to obscurity. Adario’s heart was in the Some of the most challenging defining moments faced by managers ask them to balance work and family. right place wben he hired McNeil. He believed she eould do the job, he admired her courage, and he wanted to create a workplace in which she eould fiourish. But his praiseworthy intentions needed to be backed by a knack for maneuvering, shrewdness, and political savvy. Instead, Walters seized the moment. She timed her moves carefully and found a powerful ally in the senior manager who helped her carry out her plan. Although Adario stumbled, it is worth noting that this defining moment taught him a great deal. HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 IZl THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER In following up on McNeil’s firing, Adario learned through the grapevine that many other employees shared his view of the work-family dilemma, and he began acting with more confidence than he had before. He told his hoss that he disagreed with the decision to fire McNeil and objected strongly to the way the decision had heen made. He then told Walters that her behavior would be noted in the next performance review he put in her file. Neither Walters nor the viee president said very much in response, and the issue never came up again. Adario had staked his claim, alheit belatedly. He had learned, in the words of Maehiavelli, that “a man who has no position in soeiety cannot even get a dog to bark at him.” Who Is the Company? Defining Moments for Executives Redefining the direction of one’s own life and the direction of one’s work group requires a thoughtful blend of personal introspection and calculated action. But the men and women charged with running entire companies sometimes face an even more complex type of defining moment. They are asked to make manifest their understanding of what is right on a large stage – one that can include labor unions, the media, shareholders, and many other company stakeholders. Consider the complexity of the dilemma faced by a CEO who has just received a report of package tampering in one of the company’s over-the-eounter medications. Or consider the position of an executive who needs to formulate a response to reports in the media that women and children are heing treated unfairly in the company’s To succeed, top-level executives must negotiate their ethical vision with shareholders, customers, and employees. foreign plant. These types of decisions force toplevel managers to commit not just themselves or their work groups but their entire company to an irreversible course of action. Personal and Organizational Strength. In the face of such overwhelming decisions, executives typically call meetings, start negotiations, and hire consultants and lawyers. Although these steps can be helpful, they can prove disappointing unless executives have taken the time, and the necessary steps, to carve out a powerful position for themselves in the dehate. From a position of strength, leaders can bring forth their vision of what is right in a situation; from a position of weakness, leaders’ actions are hollow and desperate. Also, before CEOs can step forth onto society’s broad stage with a personal vision, they must make sure that their actions will not jeopardize the well-being of their companies, the jobs of employees, and the net income of shareholders. That means asking. Have 1 done all I can to secure my position and the strength and stability of my organization I In 1988, Eduoard Sakiz, CEO of Roussel Uclaf, a French pharmaceutical company, faced a defining moment of this magnitude. Sakiz had to decide whether to market the new drug RU-486, which later came to be known as the French ahortion pill. Early tests had shown that the drug was 90% to 95% effective in inducing miscarriages during the first five weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. As he considered whether to introduce the drug, Sakiz found himself embroiled in a major international controversy. Antiabortion groups were outraged that the drug was even under consideration. Pro-choice groups believed the drug represented a major step forward in the battle to secure a woman’s right to an abortion. Shareholders of Roussel Uclaf’s parent company, Hoechst, were for the most part opposed to RU-486’s introduction because there had heen serious threats of a major boycott against Hoechst if the drug were introduced. To the French government, also a part owner of Roussel Uclaf, RU-486 meant a step forward in its attempts to cut hack on back-alley ahortions. There is little doubt that at one level, the decision Sakiz faced was a personal defining moment. He was a physician with a long-standing commitment to RU-486. Earlier in his career while working as a medical researcher, Sakiz had helped develop the chemical compound that the drug was based on. He believed strongly that the drug could help thousands of women, particularly those in poor countries, avoid injury or death from botehed abortions. Because he douhted that the drug would make it to market if he were not running the company, Sakiz knew he would have to secure his own position. At another level, Sakiz had a responsibility to proteet tbe jobs and security of his employees. He understood this to mean taking whatever steps he could to avoid painful boycotts and the risk of vio122 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER From Vision to Reality. To make their ethical visions a reality, top-level executives must assess their opponents and allies very carefully. What allies do I have inside and outside my company? Which parties will resist or fight my efforts? Have I underestimated their power and tactical skill or overestimated their ethical commitment? Whom will I alienate with my decision? Which parties will retaliate and how? These tactical concerns can be Astute executives can use defining moments as an lence against the company. His decision was complicated by the fact that some employees were passionately committed to RU-486, whereas others opposed the drug on ethical grounds or feared that the protests and boycotts would harm Roussel Uclaf and its other products. How could Sakiz protect his own interests and those of his employees and still introduce the drug? Whatever path he chose, he could see that he would have to assume a low puhlie profile. It would be foolish to play the courageous lion and charge forth pronouncing the moral necessity of RU-486. There were simply too many opponents for that approach to work. It could cost him his job and drag the opDortunit v t o Tedefinc thei r company through a lengthy, painful ^ ^ ^ ^ process of dangerous turmoil companv s role ill sodetv. The Role of the Organization in -“^ ^ -^ Society. What makes this third type of defining moment so difficult is that executives are asked to form, reveal, and test not only themselves and their work groups but also their entire company and its role in society. That requires forging a plan of action that functions at three levels: the individual, the work group, and society at large. In whieh areas do we want to lead? In wbieh areas do we want to follow? How should we interact with the government? With shareholders? Leaders must ask themselves. Have 1 thought creatively, boldly, and imaginatively ahout my organization’s role in society and its relationship to its stakeholders} What role did Sakiz want Roussel Uclaf to play? He certainly did not want to take the easy way out. Sakiz could have pleased his boss in Germany and avoided years of controversy and boycotts by withdrawing entirely from the market for contraceptives and other reproductive drugs. (Nearly all U.S. drug companies have adopted that approach.) Sakiz could have defined Roussel Uclaf’s social role in standard terms-as the property of its shareholdersand argued that RU-486 had to be shelved because boycotts against Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst were likely to cost far more than the drug would earn. Instead, Sakiz wanted to define Roussel Uclaf’s role in a daring way: women seeking nonsurgical abortions and their physicians would be among the company’s core stakeholders, and the company would support this constituency through astute political activism. That approach resonated with Sakiz’s own core values and with what he thought the majority of employees and other stakeholders wanted. It was clear to him that he needed to find a way to introduce the drug onto the market. The only question was how. summed up in the question. What combination of shrewdness, creativity, and tenacity will make my vision a reality^ Maehiavelli put it more succinctly: “Should I play the lion or the fox?” Although we may never know exactly what went through Sakiz’s mind, we can infer from his aetions that he had no interest in playing the lion. On October 21, 1988, a month after the French government approved RU-486, Sakiz and the executive committee of Roussel Uclaf made their decision. The New York Times described the events in this way: “At an October 21 meeting, Sakiz surprised members of the management committee by calling for a discussion of RU-486. There, in Roussel Uclaf’s ultramodern boardroom, the pill’s long-standing opponents repeated their ohjections: RU-486 could spark a painful boycott, it was hurting employee morale, management was devoting too much of i THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER its leadership, critics charged, had doomed a promising public-health tool and had set an example of cowardice. Sakiz’s colleague and friend, Etiennc-Emile Baluieu, whose research had been crucial to developing RU-486, called the decision “morally scandalous” and accused Sakiz of caving in to pressure. Women’s groups, family-planning advocates, and physicians in the United States and Europe came down hard on Sakiz’s decision. Other critics suggested sarcastically that the company’s deeision was no surprise because Roussel Uclaf had decided not to produce contraceptive pills in the face of controversy during the r96os. Three days after Roussel Uclaf announced that it would suspend distrihution, the French minister of health summoned the company’s vice chairman to his office and said that if the company did not resume distribution, the government would transfer the patent to another company that would. After the meeting with the minister of health, Roussel Uclaf again stunned the public: it announced the reversal of its initial decision. The eompany would distribute RU-486 after all. Sakiz had achieved his goals but in a foxlike manner. He had called out to his allies and rallied them to his side, but had done so in an indirect and shrewd way. He had used the predictable responses Defining moments force us to find a balance between our hearts in aU their idealism and our jobs in aU their messy reality. of the many stakeholders to orchestrate a series of events that helped achieve his ends, without looking like he was leading the way. In fact, it appeared as if he were giving in to outside pressure. Sakiz had put into place the three principal components of the third type of defining moment. First, he had secured his own future at the company. The French health ministry, which supported Sakiz, might well have been aggravated if Hoechst had appointed another CEO in Sakiz’s place; it could then have retaliated against the German company in a number of ways. In addition, by having the French government participate in the decision, Sakiz was able to deflect some of the controversy about introducing the drug away from the company, protecting employees and the bottom line. Finally, Sakiz had put Roussel Uclaf in a role of technological and social leadership within French, and even international, circles. A Bow with Great Tension As we have moved from Steve Lewis to Peter Adario to Eduoard Sakiz, we have progressed through increasingly complex, but similar, challenges. These managers engaged in difficult acts of self-inquiry that led them to take calculated action hased on their personal understanding of what was right in the given situation. But the three met with varying degrees of success. Steve Lewis was ahle to balance his personal values and the realities of the business world. The result was ethically informed action that advanced his career. Peter Adario had a sound understanding of his personal values hut failed to adapt them to the realities he faced in the competitive work environment at Sayer Microworld. As a result, he failed to prevent McNeil’s firing and put his own career in peril. Eduoard Sakiz not only stayed closely connected to his personal values and those of bis organization but also predicted what his opponents and allies outside the company would do. The result was the introduction of a drug that shook the world. The nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “I believe it is precisely through the presence of opposites and the feelings they occasion that the great man-the bow with great tension-develops.” Defining moments bring those “opposites” and “feelings” together into vivid focus. They foree us to find a balance between our hearts in all tbeir idealism and our jobs in all their messy reality. Defining moments then are not merely intelleetual exercises; they are opportunities for inspired action and personal growth. 1. The names in the accounts of Steve Lewis and Peter Adario have heen changed to protect the privacy of the principals involved. Reprint 98201 To order reprints, see the last page of this issue. 124 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW March-April 1998 Harvard Business Review Notice of Use Restrictions, May 2009 Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Publishing Newsletter content on EBSCOhost is licensed for the private individual use of authorized EBSCOhost users. It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact [email protected]
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