Plato emphasized a virtue-based system of ethics 2,400 years ago in his Academy. The philosopher believed that virtues were best encouraged through questions and discussions rather than through statements and proclamations. In other words, we learn ethics in conversation with others. So rather than getting together with senior managers to craft a “values statement,” corporate leaders should instead foster a series of structured conversations between leaders at all levels and their teams. The goal of these conversations should be to develop a common language to help frame examples of how people live out the organization’s values or classical virtues. This is inherently a social process — virtue is learned, not inherited. Leaders are already teachers of their culture, whether they are aware of it or not, so they should ask themselves how they can teach it better.
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