October 2, 2013| 0

Competence, Character, Leadership, and Information Systems

Dr. Gerhard Steinke, Ph.D., CISSP
September 30, 2013

“Graduating people of competence and character” is built into Seattle Pacific University‘s mission statement. The School of Business and Economics’ mission statement further focuses on developing students’ “professional competence and integrity in the context of Christian faith and values.”

As a faculty member, I strive to help students gain professional competence as I teach Information Systems courses.  I want them to be knowledgeable of both concepts and practice, to understand the conceptual framework of information systems and know how to build and implement a system.  But is this enough?

Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”[1] Of course I want students to gain practical knowledge of information systems, and teaching competence is teaching them to do things right. This means knowing, for example, how to create a database that serves the client’s needs. Encrypting confidential fields, scheduling regular backups, and keeping data current are examples of information systems “management” — doing things right.

And what about leadership? Are character and integrity a part of the Information Systems curriculum? My answer is yes, and I hope to help students become leaders who know how to do the right things. Even in our database example, there may be a “host” of important questions like these:

  • Should the customer’s permission be sought before storing customer information?
  • What data should be stored, and why?
  • Should data be shared? With whom, and why?
  • What security and privacy measures need to be considered?
  • Is data (especially sensitive customer information) adequately protected?

Peter Drucker argued that management is both a technology (because it deals with results) and a humanity (because it deals with people), and should therefore be considered a liberal art.[2] It’s that perspective that encourages us to talk about character development and teach students to ask the right questions so they know whether or not they are doing the right things, even in more technical disciplines like mine. This is a big undertaking, and I am glad to partner with others at Seattle Pacific University who seek the formation of Christian character that is evident in qualities of heart, mind, and action.

* * * * *

On October 17 the Center for Integrity in Business at SPU is hosting a pre-conference workshop ("Management as a Liberal Art: Insights from Peter Drucker, Our Christian Faith and the Practice of Management” before the CBFA conference at Olivet Nazarene University begins. I hope you will join in our conversations!


Dr. Steinke is Professor of Management and Information Systems in SPU's School of Business and Economics, where he has taught for more than 20 years.


[1] Peter F. Drucker, The Essential Drucker: Management, The Individual and Society.

[2] Drucker discussed this in The New Realities, published in 2003.

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