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"The School of Government and Public Policy is very grateful to Raymond Spencer for his continuing support for the Applied Ethics program. Through this gift, we are able to continue providing ethics education for students who wish to pursue careers in the public and nonprofit sectors.
Given SGPP’s focus on civic discourse, civic engagement and civic leadership, applied ethics is essential to our ability to carry out this mission.”
~ Brint Milward, director of the School of Government and Public Policy
Above: Spencer (right, pictured with Neil Vance) recently was a guest lecturer for Vance's "Ethical Leadership" course. "Mr. Spencer's emphasis on corporate culture and how leadership was the key to his company's success made me rethink everything I used to attribute to success in big companies," said student Nikhita Godiwala. Photo by Lori Harwood.
By funding an applied ethics program in the School of Government and Public Policy, Raymond Spencer is helping prepare a new generation of leaders for the ethical challenges facing them in the workplace.
So what’s an Australian businessman doing funding an applied ethics program at the UA? To find that answer, we must travel back 42 years.
In 1969, a young man named Raymond Spencer, who had grown up on a farm in South Australia, came to America and began working for a nonprofit in Chicago. There he met Neil Vance, and the two worked together at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) — an organization focused on rural and community development — for the next 15 years in Chicago and India.
Then their paths diverged. Spencer, out of poverty and “pure desperation,” went into the private sector and started a company called Kanbay. Vance went into academia and is currently the Spencer Lecturer in Applied Ethics in the UA School of Government and Public Policy. However, they stayed in touch and found that their different perspectives on a shared passion — applied ethics — was beneficial to both of them.
Vance invited Spencer to speak to his class about ethical leadership in the “real world.” Spencer invited Vance to conduct ethics seminars with his leadership team in India.
Spencer feels so strongly about the importance of this topic that four years ago, he and his wife, Tina, began funding the Raymond Spencer Program in Applied Ethics at the UA. His donation funds research, supports students and allows the program to bring in nationally recognized speakers on applied ethics. Vance also created a new undergraduate honors course called “Ethical Leadership.”
“I think leadership, ethics and classes that focus on applying knowledge instead of simply learning facts are what will benefit students in the real world,” said Nikhita Godiwala, a student in the ”Ethical Leadership” course. “Everyone is a leader, and everyone will be faced with leadership roles and challenges in whatever field or career they choose; learning about ethics and how it applies to good leadership is what will truly help one succeed.”
Spencer believes that ethical leadership training is more important today than ever before. “I think that 100 years ago there was a degree of consensus about what was important in the society,” said Spencer. “That does not exist today. And yet it’s impossible to have an organization that’s effective without some kind of common values and an understanding of what’s important and what it means to be a responsible member of the organization.”
Spencer doesn’t just believe in the concept of ethical leadership — a mission statement framed and hung on the wall where it proceeds to gather a layer of dust. For him, ethical leadership is intrinsically tied to creating a corporate culture, which is necessary for employee satisfaction.
At Kanbay, a technology consulting company, Spencer had an opportunity to put his ideals into practice. The company had about 7,500 people in 14 locations in eight countries, and creating a common experience for the clients and the associates became the defining element of the company. The result: higher employee satisfaction and one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.
For example, at Kanbay, one corporate value was respect for the individual. In practice, this meant that employees received 10 days of development a year, and the corporation had a low tolerance for gossip and delays in feedback.
What about the relationship between ethics and profit? Did making the “right decision” (such as when Spencer had to fire a critical member of his team for questionable behavior) ever result in loss of revenue?
“At times it cost us and at times it didn’t,” Spencer said. “You might make money by violating your ethical framework. But in the long term, I’m absolutely convinced that ethical behavior was a massive contributor to our success. And even if it wasn’t, it’s still the right thing to do.”
Kanbay was so successful that the company was acquired by Capgemini, one of the world’s leading providers of IT and consulting services, in 2007 for $1.3 billion. Spencer is currently chairman for Capgemini’s Financial Global Business Unit, a director of Rubicon Technology Inc., and a partner and member of the investment committee in three U.S.-based venture funds. He’s also currently the chair of the Economic Development Board of South Australia and the chair of the South Australian Health and Medical Institute.
“Raymond lives his life trying to make a difference,” said Vance. ”With his gift, he gets to make a powerful difference in the lives of these students, these future leaders. I can see it in their eyes when they get it: Ethical behavior matters. Ethical leadership has a powerful ripple effect in the world.”
Imagine culture as a tree. The branches and leaves are the visible part of the tree, just as the actions and behaviors of a group of people are easily seen. And the roots of the tree are the hidden part of the group: their philosophy, values and thinking. Why is it important to operationalize organizational culture?
• Culture is the glue that binds the organization together — limiting people working at cross purposes.
• Corporate culture gives a field and boundary within which associates can act freely and responsibly.
• A defined culture establishes what is considered by the leadership to be important.
• A conscious organizational culture facilitates a consistent client and employee experience.
• An organizational culture creates commitment, synergy and motivation.
• A group culture provides a values platform for complex decisions and actions.
• An organization’s culture provides an environment for effective communication.
(Above: Kanbay Operational Culture presentation by Raymond Spencer.)