Dr. James Hoopes

Mar 10, 2005

Acclaimed business ethics specialist joins Kettering faculty.

Dr. James Hoopes, a nationally known expert in business ethics and leadership studies, as well as a contributor to NPR's Talk of the Nation, News Hour with Jim Leherer, the BBC and CBC, becomes the Frances Willson Thompson Professor of Leadership Studies at Kettering for the 2005 academic year.

The reality is this: we live in an imperfect world where honesty is not always rewarded. One result? Integrity in the business environment is a challenge, which explains why corporate corruption is so widespread. For those who take on leadership roles at their organizations, this challenge becomes even greater, which shows that leadership positions are perhaps the most morally challenging positions in any organization.

Perhaps this is a sweeping generalization, but the recent conduct of leaders at large organizations like Enron and Tyco clearly depicts this reality. Some social and political philosophers have even argued that leaders have to be ready to engage in immoral behavior to survive. For example, Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), a political philosopher, argued in his famous treatise "The Prince" that what is good behavior for ordinary people may be bad for leaders, and that what would be immoral conduct for citizens may be the right thing to do for rulers.

Although some may disagree with Machiavelli's view, Dr. James Hoopes, Kettering's Frances Willson Thompson Professor of Leadership Studies, feels that Machiavelli is nonetheless worth studying because he points out the difficulties that stand in the way of leaders trying to get the job done and in the right way. This is of great significance today, especially for leaders of companies in an ever expanding global market.

Hoopes, who is the Murata Professor of Business Ethics at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is at Kettering for a year and a half as the visiting Frances Willson Thompson Professor of Leadership Studies. Heis well known throughout the country for his research and scholarly work in the fields of business ethics and leadership. In recent years, he has provided expert analysis on NPR, News Hour with Jim Leherer, and has published several important works on leadership and ethics, including "False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management And Why Their Ideas Are Bad For Business" (Perseus Publishing, 2003). This book employs a historical approach to assist today's business leaders in developing what Hoopes characterizes as "a more realistic perspective in a morally ambiguous world where there has always been power and injustice."

One important feature of Hoopes' book is its research on the contributions of the engineering profession to business management and leadership. He argues that "in some ways the engineering point of view regarding leadership and company stewardship has exerted more positive influence on business leadership than most people realize." This is one idea he hopes to expose students at Kettering to, since the majority of them graduate with degrees in engineering.

"Faculty who teach the Leadership Seminars are doing fine work," he said. "I view my role here as learning from, as well as helping to advance, the good work faculty here have already done to help Kettering students think in broad terms about the challenge of leadership."

Dr. Karen Wilkinson, head of the Liberal Studies Dept. at Kettering, is happy Hoopes is spending the next year at the University. "Jim Hoopes has already proven to be a congenial colleague, helpful to both students and faculty," she said. "In his professional activities around the country, he will help Kettering University to become known as a school with a commitment to teaching leadership and ethics."

Currently, Hoopes teaches Liberal Studies 489: Senior Seminar-Leadership and Ethics and finds Kettering students to be motivated, bright and enjoyable to teach. Some of the work his students engage in during class includes studying various leadership theories and case studies. All students undertake a major term project in which theory and practice come together.

Hoopes is also working on a new book about moral leadership, which focuses on the response to the business crises of Enron, Tyco and other corporate indiscretions. "I feel that moral leadership is very difficult and the point of the book is to help leaders by showing some of the unsuspected pitfalls waiting for those who aspire to moral leadership," he said. He expects to complete this new work sometime next year.

He will serve his professorship at Kettering for a year and a half from this past January through the spring 2006 term. He lives in Wellesley, Mass., with his wife and two children, and makes it home almost every weekend. For more information on Dr. Hoopes and his work, contact him at jhoopes@kettering.edu.

Written by Gary J. Erwin