Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
While surgery is usually an unpleasant situation, in the case of Philip Holden's book Ethics for Managers it is delightful. Holden performs “soul surgery” to turn chaos into tranquility, blindness into awareness, and cynicism into creativity. A tremendously engaging read, Holden takes us on a journey into the foundations of leadership; a journey far too many leaders have never taken. “Moral bankruptcy need not be the price for managerial success” argues Holden.
To begin, Holden asks the reader to consider the legacy we would like to leave or how we would like to be remembered. This is the first step in finding the “real you” and subsequently, how you will engage leadership. Our legacy, argues Holden, is built on a foundation of values. The interplay of values in the daily practice of leadership is a question that has been considered for centuries. In that light, Holden takes us on a brilliant tour of the great philosophers throughout history: from Aquinas to Buddha, and from Moses to Hume. Holden ties up the first chapter with a reference to Benjamin Franklin's experiment in moral perfection. Franklin concluded that the path to moral perfection is to make a habit of virtue. “Good people …” asserts Holden, “bask in the sunshine of their integrity”.
Every philosopher must deal with the idea of truth, and so it goes with Holden in his second chapter. He again leans on the contributions of the heroes of philosophy, both historic and modern, as he leads the reader to consider a comprehensive set of questions. The questions are designed to uncover the truths of wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, honesty, integrity, compassion, optimism, hope and generosity. Among the most compelling questions posed by Holden is: “How many hearts and minds do you touch during a day?” The question takes the reader into a place of self‐reflection, which Holden argues is how leaders will discover the truth of virtue.
The next set of chapters show the reader how attention to virtue leads to happiness. Holden provides ten rules for happiness including: uphold the right values, love somebody, hold onto your dreams, find peace of mind, use money wisely, stay healthy, find the right balance between your work and leisure and have a good laugh. The convincing argument that a life devoted to things more virtuous than material wealth will lead to well being is strong and, frankly, an expression of Holden's obvious devotion to practicing what he preaches.
The remaining chapters are an articulation of virtue in practice. From building systems to checking day‐to‐day decisions with core values, Holden brings the reader to consider ethics as being good business practice. Holden peppers his text with practical exercises and examples from history and modern business. The climactic chapter is a specific case for moral leadership and how it is contrasted to management that views ethics, morality and virtue as a distraction from the acquisition of material wealth and power. The distinction between those who live to have and those who live to give is made very clear.
Philip Holden has a strong command on the topic of leadership. He is obviously both historically competent and well read in the current literature. The reader can be confident in Holden's thoughtful and well grounded contribution to the discussion of effective and ethical leadership. Leaders and managers who suspect that there is more to life than profit margins and competitive advantage will be treated to a thoughtful journey that will inspire self‐reflection and result in a more purposeful practice of leadership.