The Formation of Leaders

Joseph F.X Zahra's article on Newsbook

We do forget that the economic crisis which most of the world is still suffering from is the direct effect of bad decision taking by persons who have authority in governments, politics, business, finance and labour unions. The crux of the matter, so the speak, is the leader who holds authority and who takes decisions. Putting a spot light on the leader as “person” is an important step in understanding why bad decisions, a consequence of personal motivation, can create so much misery in society – inequality, unemployment, racial prejudice, violence and crime. Since the first modern economic crisis following the Enron debacle in 2002, followed by the second crisis sparked by Lehman in 2008, attention has been given to the need to “go back to basics”, meaning that we need to return to basic values that glue society together through a process of good decision making. The Malta Group of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation together with the Pastoral Formation Institute has collaborated with two University of Malta faculties, that of Economics, Management and Accountancy and that of Theology, in developing and delivering a three year post graduate degree course in Business Ethics. The second in-take to this course is now in its first year of studies and research. In the beginning of this year, the Centesimus Annus foundation again in cooperation with the Pastoral Formation Institute launched another course aimed at senior executives, professionals and politicians entitled “Cultivating Ethical Culture in Business Leadership”. This course came to an end in the beginning of April. Eighteen participants coming from private enterprise, banks, funds, professions and politics interacted with other professionals who lectured on the vocation of business leaders, the mission of business, teamwork, empowerment, relationships between employers and employees, decision making, social responsible investment, corruption, money laundering and transparency, and ethics in marketing. The course was sponsored by MISCO.

The underlying principle is that the notion of good or bad business lies squarely on who decides in the enterprise or the economy. It depends therefore on the wisdom of the decision-maker, motivated by the virtues of prudence, justice, courage and restraint or temperance as well as the ability to build long lasting relationships with others in society. This also entails that decisions are necessarily taken with a strategic (medium-long term) perspective rather than a short-term view for the benefit of all stakeholders. The idea is that of helping human flourishing – a 360 degrees human development that encourages participation, involvement, creativity and innovation. The discussions during the course also looked at the meaning of success in today’s world. Perhaps better described in John Paul II’s encyclical “creating lifestyles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth … factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments.” (Centesimus Annus,39). During the last session of the course, participants and lecturers sought ways on how this leadership can be developed – the conclusion lies in the strength of values-driven families, educators at schools and colleges, and the media that should be projecting exemplary role models. Participation in this course was a refreshing experience in returning to basics, mostly so at a time when image, logos and branding, tactics and short-termism are wrongly being given more importance to substance and fundamentals. 

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