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Ethics & responsible leadership in a digital age

  • Date: Thu, Apr 7, 2016

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As part of their studies, students studying the CEMS MIM at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD) had the opportunity to explore the topic of ‘Ethics & responsible leadership in a digital age’ integrating perspectives in Philosophy, Urban Planning, Data Protection, Sociology, Privacy Law, and Business. This course was the Responsible Global Leadership (RGL) Seminar component of their CEMS MIM curriculum at UCD.

Ethics is not something that often appears on management course agendas. Perhaps part of the reason is because it is not a skill set that is easily measured or managed. The question of ethics goes beyond any rulebook and doesn’t always have a clear answer. Particularly, in the digital age when the rate of change outpaces the speed with which laws and regulations are created, knowing what is the “right” or “wrong” way to behave isn’t always obvious. CEMS students were exposed to multiple viewpoints meant to enrich their own decision-making process and to help them create their own set of answers.

“My first impression of the RGL seminar was that it had a very different tone and topic to other seminars I have experienced as part of CEMS – it wasn’t just about management, leadership or how to deal with some huge new trend like Big Data. Instead, the session blended a rich diversity in schools of thought to form a new type of dialogue on what it means to be a responsible leader in the digital era,” says CEMS student Mark Byrne. “The line-up of speakers was certainly impressive – boasting the heads of Google and Linkedin Ireland, as well as speakers from Harvard and Lancaster Universities, with sometimes conflicting views. This resulted in a seminar with no distinct instruction on how I should behave as a responsible leader…, rather than leaving the seminar with a ‘right answer’ to these issues, I left with an enriched range questions and tools to craft my own response to the ethical dilemmas of our digital age. “

Speakers included John Herlihy, Linkedin’s Vice-president and Managing Director for EMEA, Ronan Harris, Head of Google Ireland, Pauline Walley, an Irish Lawyer and writer, Seán Kelly, Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University, Gerardine Meaney, Professor of Cultural Theory and Director of the UCD Humanities Institute, Ultan O'Carroll, Technology Advisor at the Office of Data Protection Commissioner, Kristy Milland, Amazon Mechanical Turk activist, and visiting Professors Olinga Ta'eedLucas Introna, Robert Kitchin, Adrian MacKenzie with some very interesting insights.

Mr. Herlihy of Linkedin, for example, explained that sometimes it’s necessary for companies to go beyond what is legally necessary in terms of being responsible around what they inform/don't inform customers. This is partly due to the fact, presented by Ms. Walley, that the quick pace of technological change means the laws can’t always be created fast enough to properly regulate the digital world. Her speech, helped students question their own exposure online and the limitations of the law to protect them. Sean Kelly, a professor at Harvard, also linked philosophy to behavior in the digital sphere, raising many questions on online vs offline identities and behavior. Prof Kelly compared this to the ancient Greek tradition, in which people were able to behave differently depending on what the situation demanded from them and Kierkegaard’s theory of the unified self, who engages in grounding commitments. Tying the ancient world to the modern helped to create a very round perspective on the topic.

“The most valuable part of the CEMS experience is that you get to meet people with completely different backgrounds – and ethics. A decision that seems completely logical to you might be very hard to understand for others. Working together in such a diverse group has taught me to always look at problems from other perspectives,” adds CEMS Student Nienke Mendes de Leon.

“I feel these so called 'soft skills', or lack thereof is really what sets leaders apart. So for me, I think it will definitely make me a better and more self-aware manager,” says Mark

About the Responsible Global Leadership Seminar

The Responsible Global Leadership Seminar (RGL) is a two-day course, which takes place at the beginning of Term 2. The RGL Seminar brings together representatives from Corporate and/or Social partners, professors and students, to capitalize on experiential learning.

Learn more about the CEMS MiM here.


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