As turmoil continues to shake the global economy, many ask, Who got us into this mess? Companies that were once global giants have collapsed or been rescued by governments. Many business executives formerly lauded for their achievements are now being tried for crimes or enduring forced retirement. Around the globe, people are attacking corporate greed and irresponsibility. Traditional ideas of successful leadership are being reinterpreted for a new world in which ethics face greater scrutiny, corporate responsibility is in greater focus, and customers and employees demand more communication and transparency. At this point, asking who got us into the mess we’re in might be less important than asking what leaders should learn to avoid such problems in the future. Businessweek.com asks professionals around the country, from CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professors to civil rights activists and clergymen, what they think are the most important things to teach business leaders.

Click here to see their responses.

As turmoil continues to shake the global economy, many ask, Who got us into this mess? Companies that were once global giants have collapsed or been rescued by governments. Many business executives formerly lauded for their achievements are now being tried for crimes or enduring forced retirement. Around the globe, people are attacking corporate greed and irresponsibility. Traditional ideas of successful leadership are being reinterpreted for a new world in which ethics face greater scrutiny, corporate responsibility is in greater focus, and customers and employees demand more communication and transparency. At this point, asking who got us into the mess we’re in might be less important than asking what leaders should learn to avoid such problems in the future. Businessweek.com asks professionals around the country, from CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professors to civil rights activists and clergymen, what they think are the most important things to teach business leaders.

Click here to see their responses.

What Do You Think Business Leaders Need to Learn?

Rethinking Leadership
Rethinking Leadership

As turmoil continues to shake the global economy, many ask, Who got us into this mess? Companies that were once global giants have collapsed or been rescued by governments. Many business executives formerly lauded for their achievements are now being tried for crimes or enduring forced retirement. Around the globe, people are attacking corporate greed and irresponsibility. Traditional ideas of successful leadership are being reinterpreted for a new world in which ethics face greater scrutiny, corporate responsibility is in greater focus, and customers and employees demand more communication and transparency. At this point, asking who got us into the mess we’re in might be less important than asking what leaders should learn to avoid such problems in the future. Businessweek.com asks professionals around the country, from CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professors to civil rights activists and clergymen, what they think are the most important things to teach business leaders.

Click here to see their responses.

Luis Alfonso and Caroline Holley
Luis Alfonso and Caroline Holley
What they do: Co-owners, Swing Hair Salon
Where: New York

"Consider the consequences of your actions and act ethically and compassionately toward the planet that supports you. In order to make our business sustainable with wind power, CFLs, and healthier hair care products, we spend more—but we sleep with a clear conscience knowing that we are doing all that we can to minimize our impact on the natural environment. As a small business, we have a direct sense of the symbiotic relationship we have with our customers. It is sad that big businesses do not see themselves as part of a greater community of businesses making this country stronger and providing valuable services to American consumers."
Rashmir Balasubramaniam
Rashmir Balasubramaniam
What she does: Founder and chief executive officer, Nsansa
Where: Seattle

"To come alive! The world needs business leaders who have come alive. We should coach leaders to find and live their personal mission and values, simultaneously teaching them how to build and manage organizations that do the same. We should teach business leaders how to listen, how to move beyond ego, how to empathize, how to engage in deep dialogue, and how to lead and manage transformation and change—for we are in a transformative age. These elements should complement a core integrated curriculum of ecological economics, systems thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship, with a variety of hard and soft business and management skills woven through that core."
Wes Benedict
Wes Benedict
What he does: Executive director, Libertarian National Committee
Where: Washington, D.C.

"Advantages won through legislation and the courts may benefit you in the short term but reduce economic growth in the long run. Stop asking the government for favors. Start demanding a level playing field."
Daniel Boulud
Daniel Boulud
What he does: Chef-owner, Daniel, DB Bistro Moderne, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Bar Boulud, Epicerie Boulud, Boulud Sud, Café Boulud
Where: New York, Miami, Palm Beach, London, Beijing, Singapore

"Strive for excellence and for maintaining consistent standards. In the restaurant business, which is all hands on all the time, we maintain quality through constant on-the-job training. We also frequently reassess our performance by evaluating and applying feedback from our customers, our employees, our purveyors, and the media, especially when we see recurring patterns in their input. We learn a lot from observing our peers. While we are not interested in copying, observation and healthy competition can be motivating forces and keep you in sync with the times. Yet it's essential to remain true to your identity and not fall into the trap of becoming trendy."
Reggie Bradford
Reggie Bradford
What he does: Chief executive officer and founder, Vitrue
Where: Atlanta

"From my years as an entrepreneur, I believe in the power of motivating, challenging, and empowering my employees—trying to instill some entrepreneurial spirit within each of them. Getting employees to truly take ownership in the company's success is vital. Also, the social Web—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube—has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with each other and it will be key to the future of business. It will be vital to incorporate the best social and mobile technologies to strengthen internal and external operations, promote collaboration, and give your employees a voice. And in the same vein, it will be equally important for business leaders to learn how to listen through these social channels."
Jeanne E. Branthover
Jeanne E. Branthover
What she does: Managing director, Boyden Global Executive Search
Where: New York

"We should teach our business leaders to lead by example, demonstrating intellectual honesty and impeccable integrity. To demand open communication and total transparency where employees will trust and want to be led by them. Being confident without being arrogant, being patient without being complacent. Empower the workforce through ensuring a diverse environment where every employee has the opportunity to maximize their potential to be successful."
Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane
Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane
What he does: Episcopal Bishop of Washington
Where: Washington, D.C.

"We should teach our business leaders the fundamental difference between universal moral values and societal values. When greed and the desire for personal gain triumph over moral suasion, the result becomes the catastrophe we see on Wall Street today."
Dickson Despommier
Dickson Despommier
What he does: Professor, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Where: New York

"I would teach them all about ecological process, and in particular, how ecosystems function and all the good they do in maintaining the health of every living creature on our planet."
Aida Diarra
Aida Diarra
What she does: Regional vice-president, North, Central, and West Africa, Western Union
Where: Casablanca, Morocco

"In order to be an effective leader, you need to be a citizen of the world. It is not about traveling to different places. It is more about understanding global trends, and having the visibility and understanding of how they can potentially impact one's activity or business. Adaptability and innovation are key. The world changes so fast that you have to keep pace. Open-mindedness, a sense of focus, the ability to listen, and determination are necessary in order to be successful and motivate others. I strive to empower people by providing them with a clear, articulated vision and the resources they need to innovate, drive execution, and make smart, well-thought-out decisions."
Michael Flood
Michael Flood
What he does: President and chief executive officer, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
Where: Los Angeles

"As the CEO of a nonprofit organization and an MBA graduate, I believe that it is important for business leaders to realize how today's economic trends are impacting not only their specific businesses but also the economy as a whole. In Los Angeles, unemployment has reached 12 percent, and this high rate is hampering the economy and putting tremendous pressure on charitable organizations that provide social and other services. As we continue through these difficult economic times, it is vital for business leaders to continue to engage with the community to help meet pressing needs as they also look for ways to grow their business and help solve the unemployment problem that our nation faces."
R. Edward Freeman
R. Edward Freeman
What he does: Professor, University of Virginia Darden School of Business
Where: Charlottesville, Va.

"Business leadership is about simultaneously creating value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities, and shareholders; how we can have business and ethics, rather than business or ethics; seeing business as set in society, rather than apart from society; and good judgment and understanding the full complexity of human beings."
Lynn Gray
Lynn Gray
What she does: Founder and chief executive officer, Campus Scout, and former global chief administrative officer of the Global Real Estate Group, Lehman Brothers
Where: New York

"Business leaders should be taught always to look for creativity and inspiration within and outside their organizations. During my 11-plus years at Lehman Brothers, I believed that the best and the brightest labored harder than anyone else within those corporate walls and that we delivered the finest results for our clients. To a large degree, that was true. But when Lehman fell and I was given the 'opportunity' to reinvent myself, I found that there are extraordinarily talented people endlessly working outside traditional corporate America to create new and exciting products and ways to deliver services. Those blessed with the entrepreneurial spirit can be found within corporate offices, too. They have fresh ideas, passion, and excitement. Often they are discouraged by rigid corporate structures or managers who resist change. In this extremely competitive and challenging economy, business leaders should hunt for creativity inside and outside their organizations to gain and maintain that elusive competitive edge."
Sara Horowitz
Sara Horowitz
What she does: Founder, Freelancers Union
Where: New York

"As government and the financial industry offer us less and less security in our lives, we need visionary business leaders to help us forge a new way to meet our individual and societal needs. I believe today's true leaders are using social entrepreneurship and mutual-support models to pioneer new business solutions. … At Freelancers Union, our social-purpose business model has allowed us to innovate to offer group-rate insurance to independent workers, and our Contract Creator and Client Scorecard tools were built alongside our members to offer them protection and help them do business. These tools rely on their involvement, and the stronger and larger the group involved, the more valuable the tool. By providing benefits, support, and education to our members, we're giving them information about good business practices that offers them security."
Joe Jimenez
Joe Jimenez
What he does: Chief executive officer, Novartis
Where: Basel, Switzerland

"I've learned that, as a leader, it is important to be a good listener. Listening and reflecting upon opinions that differ from your own leads to better business decisions. Also, never underestimate the power of listening on your people. It makes them feel empowered, engaged, and invested in the enterprise's success."
Joe Keefe
Joe Keefe
What he does: President and chief executive officer, Pax World Management
Where: Portsmouth, N.H.

"We should be teaching them to be leaders rather than managers, with an agenda that is more expansive than simply the bottom line. A manager's bottom-line focus is inherently narrow and short-term, leaving to the rest of society the challenge of addressing the broader implications and externalities of business growth. A leader's vision, by contrast, takes in the interests of all stakeholders—shareholders, employees, customers, civil society, and the ecological commons—and then innovates to produce sustainable value over the long term. That's what the corporation was invented for, for Pete's sake—we need to get back to that. In business, we've been educating too many managers and not enough leaders. That has to change."
Terry Savage
Terry Savage
What she does: Finance expert and author
Where: Chicago

"We definitely need to teach history to all our citizens—and especially future business leaders. Without that sense of perspective, they will be too focused on the short term, and inevitably they will repeat the mistakes of the past."
Jennifer Levi
Jennifer Levi
What she does: Director of Transgender Rights Project, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Where: Boston

"I encourage businesses to be bold in diversifying their workforces. Do not assume that your clients or customers are uncomfortable with difference or share biases perceived to be more widespread than they actually turn out to be. Embrace and support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. Those businesses that do learn that workers who might otherwise feel vulnerable because of the lack of legal workplace protections can be among the most loyal, dedicated, creative, and productive."
Shawn O'Connor
Shawn O'Connor
What he does: Founder and chief executive officer, Stratus Prep
Where: New York

"To be most impactful in today's competitive economic landscape, business leaders must internalize four critical lessons, which are being instilled by the most forward-thinking MBA and eMBA programs. Today's business leaders must have the skills necessary to lead diverse, often global teams, many of which will operate virtually. They must be able to think creatively and adapt quickly to disruptive technologies as well as unanticipated shifts in the markets. The most accomplished managers are data- and fact-driven in their decision-making; this helps eliminate and compensate for inherent biases. Finally, in this age of nearly ubiquitous corporate scandals, ethics and trust are the most valuable traits for any business leader."
Marylin L. Prince
Marylin L. Prince
What she does: Partner, The Prince Houston Group
Where: New York

"The foundation is integrity, but it is not enough. Also needed are self-awareness, strong IQ/EQ, judgment, creativity, and an ability to communicate. Great leaders are distinguished by setting a vision and inspiring others to achieve success."
Pulin Sanghvi
Pulin Sanghvi
What he does: Assistant dean and director, career management center, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Where: Stanford, Calif.

"We should teach business leaders to pursue lives of meaning and impact closely aligned with their core values and passions. We should also teach business leaders to embrace change. The next century will be defined by key themes around change—globalization, disruptive technologies, emergence of new industries, environmental challenges, and the rapid growth of an educated global workforce and customer base. At the baseline, the next generation of leaders will have to be comfortable navigating change, but the most effective leaders will embrace change and drive innovation throughout their organizations."
Kenneth E. Sharpe
Kenneth E. Sharpe
What he does: Co-author, Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing, and professor, Swarthmore College
Where: Swarthmore, Pa.

"Teaching business executives the practical wisdom they need to negotiate the dozens of small, ethical judgments they face each day is a core value in any successful business. Rules and incentives will only get executives so far. Corporations need to be learning organizations that encourage discretion, practical reflection, and take ethical mentoring and coaching seriously."
Frank van Mierlo
Frank van Mierlo
What he does: Co-founder and chief executive officer, 1366 Technologies
Where: North Lexington, Mass.

"We have responsibility to four stakeholders: our customers, our employees, our community, and our shareholders. Teaching our business leaders to base their decisions on a wide perspective that recognizes all stakeholders is essential to long-term success. A broad perspective will result in better investments, a better environment, less outsourcing, and improved employee relations. By taking care of the first three stakeholders, prosperity for the shareholders will follow, and more importantly it will endure."
Robin Wade
Robin Wade
What he does: Furniture designer, Robin Wade Furniture
Where: Florence, Ala.

"Ignorance can be an amazing asset. Don't be afraid to enter a market you know very little about, particularly in an established industry. Amazing what creativity, new insight, and a clear virgin vision can provide. It's never too late for a reinvention. Go for it. I'm beginning my third major business reinvention at 54, and having a blast. If, all in all, you aren't having a blast doing what you are doing (not withstanding the daily 'opportunities'), you're probably not doing it right."
Maureen Flynn Welsh
Maureen Flynn Welsh
What she does: Psychologist
Where: Garden City, N.Y.

"Business is about relationships, and business leaders need to know how to have healthy relationships. What I know from my work as a psychologist is that authenticity and trust are essential elements of all successful relationships."