3 Questions for Elizabeth Gingerich, business law professor and editor, Journal of Values-Based Leadership

Elizabeth Gingerich, Valparaiso University

Elizabeth Gingerich joined Valparaiso University’s College of Business Administration as a business law professor after a substantial legal career advising and representing corporate clients. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she serves as the editor-in-chief of the College’s Journal of Values-Based Leadershipwhich promotes “ethical and moral leadership and behavior by serving as a forum for ideas and the sharing of ‘best practices.'”

I was introduced to Elizabeth in 2008, when the JVBL published my article, “Workplace Bullying and Ethical Leadership.” Since then, I’ve periodically visited the journal’s website to review current and past issues, available online without charge (latest issue here; back issues here). Elizabeth kindly agreed to be interviewed about her work and that of the JVBL:

1. Before entering academe, you had an extensive career as a business lawyer providing legal advice to corporations. How does that experience inform your teaching and work in shaping the journal’s content?

When I began teaching in 2001, I had already practiced law for nearly 20 years and thought I was done.  After a month, however, I became somewhat unsettled with my isolated status and knew I had to step back in – at least part-time.  The academic world helps in the courtroom and the continued practice of law keeps one sharp in the classroom. The tricky part is striking a healthy balance.

I personally would not want to be taught by someone who did not have real world experience.  Thus, as laws change and cases are decided that especially affect my business clients, I take that new knowledge, analyze it, and usually add it to my lectures.

The combination of learning, applying, analyzing, and finally teaching has given me a wider perspective of global business and its ethical and legal implications.  The combination of continuous learning and teaching what I am practicing also places me in a favorable position to conduct interviews of notable business leaders for the JVBL.

2. Valparaiso University embraces its Lutheran heritage. How do questions of faith inform or engage the mission of the journal?

The overall mission of the journal is to disseminate articles and case studies which demonstrate either the practice of and/or the need to adopt business strategies that go beyond the sole pursuit of the bottom line.  Principled decision-making ostensibly requires consideration of stakeholders’ needs, the implementation of socially responsible practices, and the adoption of sound environmental stewardship policies.

Many of the JVBL’s interviewees have included the influence of faith and religious training in formulating and implementing their respective business practices.  I have termed this “benevolent capitalism.”

3. Readers of this blog tend to be very interested in workplace issues. What does the term “values-based leadership” mean for employment relations?

Lack of an alienating hierarchy. Appreciation of all employees’ efforts.  Seeking advice as to the direction of the company from all workers.  Rewarding those who participate accordingly.

With respect to the interviews I have conducted for the JVBL, unionization and other forms of collective bargaining are simply not needed where this meaningful and continuous feedback and interaction firmly exist. Some of the more prominent examples include Interface Global (Atlanta), Whole Foods (Austin), Lands’ End (before it was sold to Sears), and Playpumps International (Johannesburg, S.A.).

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog. Go here to access all interviews in the series.

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