A Novelist in Business School: Managerial Ethics and Twenty-One Pilots

A Novelist in Business School: Managerial Ethics and Twenty-One Pilots

“A Novelist In Business School”, is a series about putting my literary arts brain through formal management training.

I’m currently taking a class on the Ethics of Management. The glib response to this statement is, “that must be a short class! Har har har!”

But the fact is that for every amoral, thieving, headline-making corrupt executive there are hundreds of thousands of managers and executives at every level who are genuinely trying to make the world around themselves a little better, and are concerned with making the best of the choices facing them.

The author of our textbook is one such. This is a slim volume, and it took me a while to warm up to it; to understand what it is genuinely trying to represent inside its somewhat repetitive passages:

This book represents the crystallized thoughts of someone who has spent decades earnestly trying to understand how you bring your human soul to bear in the act of management.

It’s a deeply intellectualized approach to answering the question “how can I be a good person?”

So What Does This Have To Do With 21 Pilots?

I often wonder how 21 Pilots feels about being the 21st century band that  Gen-Xers in their early 40s point to as the modern music they like so they can say, “See? I’m still cool!” But that is not the point.

The point is that Tyler Joseph’s lyrics are an emotional approach to the same problem. I was listening to “Car Radio” (see? I’m still cool!) this morning while waiting for the train.

from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

This lyric conveys so much; the internal conflict that Joseph has; that he’s got the kind of mind that explores all possible solutions to the human problem and has tentatively selected two that “work”. And the one hurts (faith, being awake, thinking) is the one that he proposes we do. Mr. Hosmer says almost the same thing:

An action such as lying that is considered wrong in one ethical system will generally be considered wrong in all others, but these ethical systems cannot be reconciled into a single, logically consistent whole.
–Hosmer, La Rue. The Ethics of Management (Page 98). McGraw-Hill Higher Education -A. Kindle Edition.

He’s explored a number of ethical systems and intellectually has decided that there are multiple paths that “work”. And while it hurts, we have to face our ethical choices with eyes open, we have to think our way through them, and accept the choices we make.

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