Photo credit: Getty Images (D3DAMON)

Business school graduates should take an oath of honesty, ethics and integrity

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal  on May 19, 2024.

At the Drexel University College of Medicine commencement on May 9, MD degree recipients took the updated Hippocratic Oath now referred to as the World Medical Association Declaration of Geneva. In addition, those physicians in attendance were also given the opportunity to reaffirm the oath that they took when they graduated from medical school.

Masters and PhD graduates in the College of Medicine also took the Graduate Student oath, pledging in part to “represent their profession honorably by conducting myself and my professional endeavors in a manner that is above reproach.”

Last week, I wrote a column about General Electric, once one of the most admired companies in the U.S. From 2015 to 2017, GE had failed to publicly disclose the financial risks associated with its long-term healthcare business. The company also advanced what would have been the future income from long-term service contracts in its power generation business, and booked that income in the current period, a violation of good accounting principles. Both were done to avoid causing a drop in GE’s stock price. Once the truth came out, however, the stock price significantly declined.

Photo credit: Getty Images (D3DAMON)

Acknowledging the responsibility of business leaders to operate with honesty, ethics and integrity, many business schools are administering the following or similar MBA oaths to graduating business school students:

As a business leader, I recognize my role in society.

My purpose is to lead people and manage resources to create value that no single individual can create alone.

My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow. Therefore, I promise that:

    • I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
    • I will understand and uphold, in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my conduct and that of my enterprise.
    • I will refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society.
    • I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.
    • I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
    • I will report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
    • I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

In exercising my professional duties according to these principles, I recognize that my behavior must set an example of integrity, eliciting trust and esteem from those I serve. I will remain accountable to my peers and to society for my actions and for upholding these standards. This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

Why would a business school not administer this or similar oaths to their students at commencement? You would need to ask them.

Those who have read my columns over the years know what values I stand for and live by. Honesty, ethics and integrity are core values to me. These should be the core values of all business leaders.

Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

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