A new book for business managers challenges them to do the right thing, even if it conflicts with their business ethics. James Autry retired from a career at Iowa publishing giant Meredith, where he managed the Magazine Group.
"There aren’t any business ethics," Autry says, "there are only people ethics." He asked about thirty people to tell of situations in their life or work that created the greatest challenge to their integrity, and what they did about it.
"They weren’t all black and white," Autry says, noting that there are plenty of situations that challenge integrity and some answers may be more right, or less wrong. "They’re not easy — that’s why we call it the book of hard choices." He collected stories from a wide range of decision-makers including businesspeople, a minister, a university head and a military officer. Autry says business managers make decisions based on what is legal — but should also consider what’s ethical.
"It’s reasonable that we think that way, because we’re a nation of laws," Autry says. "But you know, behavior is only measured by legality when it’s involving wrongdoing, or right-doing. ‘Ethicality’ is more…even if you’ve done what’s legal you’re going to go the extra mile to do what’s right, and those are often very different things."
Most of Autry’s previous eight books are also about business and management, though two are volumes of poetry. In April he’ll publish a new one, another departure, titled "Looking Around for God: the Oddly Reverent Observations of an Unconventional Christian." Autry is married to former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson.