By Laura Caroon and Danyel Moe
As the director of Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work and a professor at Concordia College’s Offutt School of Business, Dr. Faith Ngunjiri is initiating meaningful conversations about value-based leadership, business ethics and purpose.
In a brief summary, what do you do?
I have a fairly fluid job description as far as the Director of Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work portion of my job is concerned. I spend a lot of time talking to people in the community—looking for speakers who are willing to share their life and leadership journeys and how they integrate their faith/spirituality into their leadership. The focus of the Lorentzsen Luncheons, which we host six times a year (three each semester) is on conversations about value-based leadership, ethics, purpose, calling, meaningful work, inclusive workplaces, employee care, etc. Anything related to our working and leading lives and the role of ethics, values and spirituality in that context. In addition to hosting luncheons, we also do intimate dinner conversations, breakfast events – essentially getting people together around a meal to talk about the world of work and leadership. My other role is as a professor of management. I teach courses on ethics and leadership, organizational behavior and women as leaders.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
The favorite part of what I do is talking… I am an ambivert who loves to engage with people around the issues that I’m passionate about – leadership, ethics, values, women’s leadership, spirituality, diversity. It’s a long list. I love teaching because it also involves conversation, dialogue between myself and my students, whether that is in my classroom or in different organizations when I give workshops and talks on various leadership topics.
How have you seen women’s roles in business change throughout your career?
I have thought a lot about women, business and leadership lately. OK, not just lately, it is one of my areas of passion, research and teaching. When I was coming up, women generally tended to be in the helping professions. In fact, my own undergraduate degree is in education. But within the past 20+ years, I have seen women rising to all kinds of interesting roles and positions. When I was doing my doctoral dissertation, most of the women in leadership roles were older, 55+. That was 15 years ago. Now you will find women serving as CEOs of business, non-profits, educational institutions and their own enterprises as early as their 20s. The barriers continue, however, women are finding ways to either break those glass ceilings or sidestep them altogether.
Are business ethics changing as younger generations enter the workforce?
One of my students commented in a course evaluation – “I don’t understand why we study ethics, this stuff is common sense!” At first I was a little miffed, like surely, after a whole semester, you ought to know why! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this student had a point. Younger people are taking this ethics stuff to heart so much that it becomes common sense to them. I hear students often talking about how they are not willing to work, invest or shop in organizations that keep getting caught up in ethical scandals. This is totally awesome, we have to have zero tolerance for bad behavior and ethical misdeeds.
What advice do you have for someone who is trying to navigate an ethical dilemma in their workplace?
First of all, realize that this is a normal part of life and work. Ethical dilemmas are the norm rather than the exception. Secondly, because ethical dilemmas are the norm, prepare yourself beforehand, know what you will or won’t do to fit with your values. Do not attempt to do the wrong thing “just this once,” or what Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School calls “the marginal cost mistake.” Because doing it “just this once” leads to another time and another time, and eventually, you won’t have any qualms about behaving unethically. And finally, values matter. If the reason for getting tempted to do the wrong thing is because the culture in which you are working perpetuates bad behavior, step away. Do not let yourself be compromised. If, however, the culture does encourage speaking up, then speak up and seek help. Most ethical dilemmas can be easily resolved if only one will speak to others and gain their perspective. You don’t have to walk that path alone.
What do you hope for businesswomen in Fargo-Moorhead?
What I hope for businesswomen in our community is that they will continue to lean into their businesses, continue to thrive, they will find the resources they need to grow their businesses and that the rest of us women will support our sisters to ensure that they are successful. Luckily for us, this is a community that is truly one-of-a-kind, where help is available to those who seek it. Go Ladybosses!