Jim Ludema, Ph.D., wants his students to know that they don't have to cut corners to cut costs, they don't have to make bad choices to make money and they don't have to compromise their values to add value to their businesses.
Ludema, one of the world's leading experts in the field of leadership and strategic change, is a professor of leadership, sustainability and strategic change, and director of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL) at Benedictine University. He is an internationally-recognized consultant who has worked with organizations such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, BP, McDonald's, John Deere, USG and the U.S. Navy. He believes that building and leading companies in a socially, ethically and environmentally sustainable way is not only possible, but is a better way to bigger and more legitimate profits.
Ludema espouses that belief to his students in the Ph.D. program in Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine, and encourages them to share it with others.
However, he is aware that the more ethical path is not always the easier one.
"Being a senior executive is a tough business," said Ludema, who has guided consulting projects at many of the nation's Fortune 500 companies. "Corrupt politicians, dishonest colleagues and competitors, demands for short-term financial performance and expectations to win in the marketplace 'at all costs' can put enormous pressure on executives to cut corners and compromise their values.
"But we want our students to know that building and leading companies in a socially, ethically and environmentally sustainable way is not only possible, but is a better way to bigger and more legitimate profits," he added. "We want to connect them with other executives and companies that are doing this, and we want them to develop the knowledge and skills they need to do it themselves."
Ludema's students include senior executives in business, the military and other organizations. They make decisions on a daily basis that affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, thousands of communities and dozens of nations around the world.
"They need to be strong, smart, ethical leaders," he said.
Ludema teaches two courses he believes helps students to clarify their values, talents and commitments, and develop the knowledge and skills they need to have a transformative impact on business and society: "The Moral and Ethical Foundations of Leadership" and "Leading Strategic Change."
The former digs deeply into moral philosophies such as utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and virtue ethics, then applies them to current events such as derivatives trading, CEO compensation, and social and environmental sustainability. The latter helps students clarify their individual values and commitments, and gives them the theoretical knowledge and practical tools they need to build strong, ethical companies.
"One of our students is a senior executive at a global bank and is helping that firm redesign its standards, product offerings and governance mechanisms in the wake of the subprime mortgage scandal," Ludema said. "Another is CEO of a company that provides training programs to U.S. government employees.
"A third is owner and CEO of a company that provides cost-effective health care solutions to high-risk patients who often get lost in traditional health care systems," he added. "Senior leaders like these need to know how to put their highest values into practice and to build great organizations that benefit society and enrich people's lives."
But perhaps his best advice to students is also the simplest.
"Be bold, aim high, and use your passion to change the world," he said.