Excellence: Capturing Aristotelian Notions of Meaning and Purpose
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Alistair R. Anderson and Carter Crockett
International Journal of Business Excellence, vol. 1, no. 3
Whether it’s coverage of the subprime mortgage meltdown or the latest Wall Street Ponzi scheme, greed and financial malfeasance have placed business ethics back in the spotlight. The authors of this paper argue that Aristotle’s teachings could help businesses redefine corporate goals in terms of broader, less performance-focused objectives, which can have surprisingly positive results. The authors surveyed dozens of employees from five firms in the oil and gas industry, and tracked the performance of each company from 1999 to 2004. In their admittedly small sample, the authors found that companies that valued what Aristotle called a pursuit of virtuous “excellence” — putting such ideals as honesty, empathy, and fulfillment ahead of short-term profits — tended to have more satisfied employees who were willing to make personal sacrifices for the company (for instance, taking a pay cut during a downturn to prevent layoffs). They also found that the companies were more profitable over the period of the study.
Executives who value the ideals of Aristotelian excellence may lead their firms to become more profitable over time.