The former owner of the Houston Astros and CEO of a Fortune 500 company told an audience of business students that their careers should be infused with Christian ethics.
Drayton McLane Jr., chairman of the McLane Group and CEO of the McLane Company, a supply chain services business, spoke at this year’s Prince-Chavanne Distinguished Lecture on Nov. 9 in Belin Chapel. Hosted annually by the School of Business, the lecture series features speakers who focus on the role of Christian ethics in the business community.
Ranked 260 on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, McLane told the audience members that they must work to apply their Christians principles in all areas of life. “You don’t just write down Christian ethics on a piece of paper and say, ‘I am going to be very ethical and do everything proper,’” he said. “We have to work at it.”
Dr. John Brooks, the Prince-Chavanne Chair in Christian business ethics and associate dean of undergraduate programs in the School of Business, invited McLane to speak to the University because of the CEO’s history of involvement in the Christian community and success in business.
McLane, the outgoing owner of the Astros and a personal friend of President Robert B. Sloan Jr., presented issues about ethics in business such as making unethical decisions that might be good for business but are morally wrong. He also shared his experience as a Christian in the corporate world, comparing the development of Christian character to an athlete training to improve his or her skills.
He opened his lecture by joking about his mother’s enforcement of the Christian faith, later shifting into detailing how this system of belief has impacted his career and experiences in the field of business.
He also discussed how to be successful as a leader, informing the audience members that true leadership entails helping employees focus on completing their assignments. “People are constantly trying to take shortcuts,” said McLane, who received his BBA from Baylor University in 1958 and MBA from Michigan State University in 1959. “Keeping people on course — that is the job of a leader.”
McLane, whose family’s company was founded in 1894 in Cameron, Texas, and now employs 15,000 individuals, said organizations that value ethics will last longer than their competitors. “A long-lasting organization needs to value ethics, inspire people and make people feel good about what they do,” he said.
He listed three key practices that he thinks contribute toward success in life and business: practicing the Christian faith daily, becoming friends with those who have good morals and discovering oneself as an individual.
“Our real job is to understand ourselves, who we are, what we want to become and how we interact with people,” he said.
This insight struck a cord with several students in attendance, including sophomore Nishita Rojani, an accounting major. She said his message will help her in her career. “Now I know how to better myself in the professional world and make ethical decisions when I run into ethical dilemmas,” she said.
Many students in attendance approved of his message concerning Christian ethics.
“Ethics are important to me,” said senior Beth Bottom, a management major. “Seeing that McLane has been able to be successful while keeping his standards as high as he has was a great encouragement to me.”