Ethics and Faith


Ethics and Faith

In a similar vein, Dickie Sykes, the assistant vice president and equal employment officer of AMEC Construction Management, integrates all her personal goals around her belief in the higher purpose of her vocation. For Sykes, this has the ultimate spiritual as well as personal significance: “I have a strong spiritual foundation, and this isn’t for everyone. I don’t think people should impose their beliefs on others, especially in the work environment. But I can say personally that having a strong conviction that everything is going to work out—number one, it keeps you calm; number two, it keeps you from being desperately afraid of the unknown, to the point where you’re immobilized.”

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Dickie Sykes

Sykes’s purpose is to promote opportunity for all in the workplace, a purpose that is linked directly to the ethical standard of fairness: “What I’m trying to accomplish, basically, is to ensure that we have equity and fairness on all of our project sites and in our internal work environment, ensuring that minorities and women get treated fairly and equitably in the workforce. Also, to ensure that small, minority-[owned], and women-owned businesses get treated fairly in our construction projects across the country. All of it has worth and meaning. When someone comes up to you and says, ‘Dickie, you helped put my children through college’—no amount of money gives you that feeling. It’s indescribable to know that what you do changes people’s lives.”

Many people who succeed in business over the long haul have refused to compartmentalize their ethical and financial goals. They have a sense of wholeness in their approach to every aspect of their lives: indeed, this is the very meaning of the word integrity. The wholeness is made possible by their dedication to the higher purpose that defines what they are trying to accomplish and, ultimately, who they are and what kind of person they strive to be. As do Williams and Sykes, many businesspeople look to faith as a way of preserving their integrity when ethical challenges arise, although other leaders find secular beliefs to keep themselves ethically oriented.

Richard Jacobsen is a real-estate developer and property manager in Northern California. He is consciously aware of the intimate connections between his business goals and his determination to live an ethical life. A devout Mormon, Jacobsen is one of the many business leaders with whom we spoke who centers his multiple aspirations around his religious faith. In his interview, he was highly articulate about the ways in which all of a person’s motives—financial, moral, personal, and spiritual—must join together for true success.


Richard Jacobsen

Jacobsen’s endorsement of a “whole person” approach to business is right in line with the message that we heard from almost all of the business leaders in our study: “I think it’s really a whole, it’s not one thing or another. It’s the whole, sort of a holistic approach. You’re not just well if you’re physically well, but you’re well if you’re mentally well, emotionally well, physically well, and spiritually well. I’m successful if I’m successful in my business and in my home and in my community and in my church. All of those aspects have to be cultivated together. The measure of success is not one or the other but all of them taken together.”