It is a sign of the times that hundreds of Harvard Business School’s 2009 and 2010 graduates took “The MBA Oath.” These students promised to “serve the greater good,” act ethically, and refrain from pursuing greed at others’ expense.
We are inspired that students who will soon be in positions of leadership vow to reject the temptations their predecessors could not. But they and the more than 100,000 new M.B.A. students who enrolled this year will need more than an oath if they wish to become ethical business leaders. Simply put, such oaths sound much like chastity vows taken by thousands of teens every year. The problem in both cases is not a lack of sincerity, but a failure to adequately prepare for the moment of truth.