Telfer School of Management
University of Ottawa
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Research Links - January 2007 - Ethical Awareness and Leadership Excellence
Professor Penny Collenette
School of Management Executive-in-Residence Reveals Lessons and Insights Gained from Varied Career in Public and Private Sectors.
Penny Collenette is no novice when it comes to leadership. As vice-president at George Weston Limited and director of appointments in the Prime Minister’s Office, she saw leadership practiced in corporate boardrooms and at the highest echelon of politics. As a lawyer, corporate director and fundraiser, she put her own leadership skills to the test on behalf of clients, multinational companies and charitable causes. And as an academic fellow, teacher and lecturer, she has shared her experiences and thoughts on leadership with students at Tokyo’s Keio University, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
For the past three years, Mrs. Collenette has served as executive-in-residence at the School of Management, using this position to impart practical lessons and insights to administrators, faculty and students on corporate governance, workplace values and ethical leadership.
"Defining leadership is difficult because it is rewarded is such different ways depending on the sector," she says. "In business, leadership is rewarded with money; in politics, by winning elections; in academia, by teaching excellence and research money; and in civil society, by changing the world in some specific way."
According to Mrs. Collenette, the complexities of modern leadership are most clearly apparent in the business world.
"My experience has shown me that ethical business leadership cannot be taught - there are just too many situations and too many variables in business life to provide students a checklist on moral leadership," says Mrs. Collenette. "Ethical corporate behaviour is a mindset - the more executives examine issues related to ethical leadership, the better prepared they will be to make ethical decisions and the more comfortable they will be with their decisions."
Mrs. Collenette is doing her part to ensure students are exposed to these issues. For six weeks this fall, she used class discussions, case studies, guest speakers and expert panels to help 33 promising young executives in the school’s Executive MBA program explore ethics in today’s workplace.
"Students hunger for meaningful discussion on business ethics and leadership, and they have a strong desire to set clear standards of excellence on how business should be conducted," she says. "To satisfy this desire, I used my experiences, studies and professional network to help them delve deeply into all facets of ethical business and political leadership."
The practical approach employed by Mrs. Collenette in the classroom extends to her research interests.
"We used the unfolding scandal at Hewlett-Packard as a vehicle to study and discuss many issues related to business ethics, including what factors influence business leaders to behave unethically," she says. "It is a subject that I would like to see researched in greater detail."
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