Bringing Cardinal Virtues Back in Business

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on

When reading news, we cannot not notice companies, big ones, in scandal. It can be about stock manipulation, bribery, and other unethical practices. On a more positive note, technology made it easier for anyone to start a business creating a lot of competition in the marketplace. We know of big businesses which have been greatly affected by smaller new ones and new businesses rapidly growing overnight. This proves that the business environment today is even more challenging and complex. With such a competitive environment and shifting social values, leaders are pushed to make hard decisions, choosing between the ethical and unethical. Sometimes or most of the time, for the sake of staying afloat, leaders choose profit over what is good. 

If we are to accept and make profiteering over what is ethical our social norm, then I am sure that there will be greater social injustice and society will collapse. What then do I propose? 

We need to cultivate and inculcate the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude which leads to good behavior and right success in business. The cardinal virtues provide a framework for living a virtuous and happy life. They can be traced back from the works of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and believed to be essential for human flourishing.

The virtue of prudence is about making wise decisions. Prudence involves the ability to identify what is sound, relevant, and reliable information, and to make ethical decisions based on that information. In other words, prudence is the ability to make informed decisions that can help a company achieve its goals. By being prudent or thinking through the possible paths to final decision, leaders and entrepreneurs can ensure that they are considering many perspectives, and avoiding expensive mistakes. If this fast-food chain was a little more prudent in their action of not suddenly shifting to a new tech system, they would have avoided a problem in their supply chain which led them to having no inventory of their most famous item in their stores.

The virtue of justice is another virtue that is important in the business world. Justice involves treating others fairly and equitably, and giving each person what he or she is due. In a business context, this can mean ensuring that employees are paid a fair wage, that customers are treated with respect and honesty, and that vendors and suppliers are paid promptly and fairly. Practicing justice in business creates a culture of trust and respect, which can lead to long-term success. I personally have been treated unfairly by a company who hired our services. After the company was bought out, we were never paid even by the new owner. Some employees did not even receive their salary as of this writing. The company may be doing okay financially but that is not just the measure of success.

The virtue of fortitude is also essential in business. Fortitude involves the ability to persevere in the face of difficulty and to overcome obstacles. Fortitude in other words is grit and resilience. In the competitive world of business, fortitude in leaders is key to achieving success. Whether it’s coming back from a failed project or persisting through a challenging business environment, those who practice fortitude are better able to weather the highs and lows of business and come out on top. Ask successful business owners and they will tell you that along the way, they have experienced multiple failures before achieving success, this demonstrates fortitude.

Lastly, the virtue of temperance. Temperance involves the ability to exercise self-control and moderation in action, even in the face of temptation or pressure. In business, this can mean avoiding the lure of excessive profit or making shortcuts to achieve profitability. By exercising temperance, business leaders can ensure that their decisions and actions are aligned with their personal values and the values of the company. One example of temperance in practice is this real estate company that leaves ample green space rather than putting more buildings for the sake of profit.

By cultivating cardinal virtues, business leaders can have a guide that will point them in the right direction in this complex and competitive environment that will eventually lead them to long term success while keeping their values in place.

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