James Madison University has established an Ethical Reasoning in Action group that has successfully added a required course in ethical reasoning to the curriculum of all accounting students. Addressing the Executive Directors Conference, Dr. Bill Hawk described how his team developed basic questions that ethical leaders should ask themselves.

Dr. Hawk suggested these questions be asked in groups with at least one outsider included in the discussion. He referenced a book entitled Why They Do It, by Eugene Soltes, which includes interviews with convicted criminals, including Bernard Madoff. Dr. Hawk pointed out that all of the white-collar criminals interviewed had failed to answer these questions in a group. (See box at right.)

According to Dr. Hawk’s findings, very little ethical change is based on one leader. “We need to trust each other and challenge each other. We need to drive us back to what we agree on…It’s a great challenge,” he observed.

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