“We can afford to lose money. We can afford to lose a lot of money. But we cannot afford to lose one shred of our reputation. Make sure everything you do can be reported on the front page of your local newspaper written by an unfriendly, but intelligent reporter.” — Warren Buffett 
With these words, Warren Buffett annually reminds employees at Berkshire Hathaway how vitally important are ethics in all they do. The Darden Community is no different. Here at the start of 2009, let me say it plainly: manage, study, lead, and work with integrity because
- We want to create a sustainable legacy for Darden. To incorporate ethics into our workplace mindset is to think about the kind of world that we would like to live in, and that succeeding generations will inherit.
- Ethical behavior builds trust and dividends of trust are valuable. The foremost dividend is an unimpeachable reputation. Equally important, ethics and trust build strong teams and strong leadership. Stronger teams and leaders result in more agile and creative responses to problems. Ethical behavior contributes to the strength of teams and leadership by aligning employees around shared values, and building confidence and loyalty.
- The Darden Mission Statement calls us. We share expectations that create a community of trust. The faculty members reaffirm the Darden Mission Statement annually. It commits us to graduate “principled leaders.”
- Darden can’t afford the costs of doing otherwise. To echo Warren Buffett, we cannot afford to lose one shred of our reputation; we cannot afford to lose one talented member of our community, applicant, or corporate partner over an ethical lapse; and we cannot afford to lose our self-confidence and self-respect.
These and other reasons should motivate all of us to walk the talk.
Here is what I ask of everyone in the Darden Community in 2009. First, encourage others around you to do what’s right. We are not an “anything goes” community. We have mutual expectations for exemplary behavior. No number of messages from the Dean can top the impact of peer expectations. A community is only as strong as its most vulnerable link. Help those who may be headed in the wrong direction. Speak up for our values.
Second, if you see something, say something. The UVA Honor System provides representatives with whom students and professors can share their concerns on a confidential basis. Similarly, faculty and staff members can share concerns with senior leaders, me, and/or Barbara Deily, Chief Audit Executive of the University (434-924-4110, email@example.com). The mark of a good organization is not that it never has ethical lapses, but rather what it does about them. At Darden we must get the facts and take appropriate action as fast as possible.
Finally, at a personal level, make a commitment to go the extra mile for what’s right. Mahatma Gandhi said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want to live in a community of trust and integrity, we must live that behavior.
Posted by Robert Bruner at 01/07/2009 02:07:16 PM