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The Code of the West Ethical Leadership Initiative Launched

February 1, 2011

The Code of the West and "doing the right thing" are more than abstract expressions - they are the basis of a pilot ethical leadership initiative offered to Wyoming businesses statewide.

The University of Wyoming College of Business and the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership have joined forces to offer a leadership curriculum using The Code of the West as the organizing concept. 

Designed to be inspirational as well as instructional, the program aims to support businesses of all sizes in creating a culture based on self-defined values, principles and implementation methods. Participants will not only develop and adopt a company-specific "code to live by," but will also lay out action plans relating to customers, employees and the community, says Brent Hathaway, dean of the UW College of Business.  

 "In recent years we've seen all too many headlines about corporate greed, corruption and dishonesty, both in the United States and abroad," Hathaway says. "This makes it all the more important that ethical business people think deeply and speak clearly about what they really stand for."

 The new program encourages business executives to think of themselves as ethical leaders who can serve as role models in their firms and the community at large.   

Participating firms may opt to use The Code of the West as the model for their ethical code, or tailor it to their company values, or create a code all their own. 

"Rather than telling businesspeople what they should believe, our program asks them to decide for themselves which values and principles they genuinely embrace, and then employ proven management methods to implement those principles within their organizations," says Dick McGinity, the Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics at the UW College of Business. 

The program is structured to be scalable, requiring a basic level of effort from small firms and wider-ranging action plans from larger ones.

"While the concept of ‘doing the right thing' applies to every business, it's clear that midsized and multinational firms have more complex organizations and, therefore, a much broader range of ethical issues to deal with than small ones, as well as more resources to bring to the task," says Hathaway. 

Those who complete the program will receive certificates designating them as "Keepers of the Code." 

"We wanted to underscore the point that what matters are actions . . . not words," says Jim Owen, founder of the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership and best-selling author of the Code of the West trilogy: "Cowboy Ethics," "Cowboy Values" and "The Try."  "For companies as well as individuals, it's not enough to espouse a code. You have to strive to live by it each and every day."  

A steering committee consisting of area business, government and educational leaders oversees the program. The same group spearheaded production of the Telly Award-winning documentary film, "The Code of the West: Alive and Well in Wyoming." Released a year ago, the film inspired the Wyoming State Legislature to pass a bill designating the Code of the West as the state's official code.

The steering committee will recommend a small group of Wyoming businesses to participate in the program's inaugural sessions, scheduled to begin this spring. The Wyoming Chamber Partnership will handle applications for future sessions. The program will be offered in cooperation with the Wyoming Business Council, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and the Wyoming Chamber Partnership.

For the invited sessions, the cost is $1,500 per company for up to three individuals. The first pilot session will be held at UW, with two other sessions to be scheduled later.

For more information, contact Kent Noble at UW, or (307) 760-7860. 

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