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Learning to govern ethically using the book of the dead

In countless Egyptian tombs Osiris is depicted on his throne as he observes someone’s final judgement. The god covers his head with a white mitre decorated with two ostrich feathers. He holds the sceptre and the whip which represents his ability to reward and punish.

Maat is in the background. She represents truth, justice, and the universal order; she leads the deceased to where the trial is held. There Anubis and Horus are waiting with a balancing scale. Anubis is the god of death and embalming, as well as the guardian of the scales, since he takes the deceased’s heart and places it on one plate and on the other the feather adorning Maat’s head.

Horus makes sure that weighing is done properly. If the heart turns out to be as light as the feather, the deceased will be saved since he was a virtuous person. Once the process is done the ibis-headed god Thot, representing wisdom, shows Osiris the corollary. If the result turned out positively, the individual under trial is sent to Osiris’s world of vast fields where existence mirrors the current world, free of pain, worries or ailments. If on the contrary, the verdict is guilty, Ammyt, a beastly demon with a crocodile’s head, lion’s claws and a hippopotamus’s body will devour the wrongdoer.

This is not a blind test. The deceased knows beforehand the issues he will be tried on, for he must recite a text “to purify himself of all his sins and to see all the gods’ faces” when he enters the room where Maat awaits him. The 4,000-year-old text points out the issues he should have paid attention to during his mortal life. I can come up with specific parallels in corporate life condemning unfair compensation policies, distorted prices, sexual harassment, corruption, embezzlement, diversion of funds, commissions...

“I have committed no crimes against men (...)

I didn't claim to know what wasn't supposed to be known,

I have not wrought evil (...),

I have not stolen from the poor,

I have not done what the gods abominate,

I have not vilified a slave to his master.

 (...) I have not inflicted suffering on anyone.

 (...) I have neither fornicated nor humiliated.

I have not tampered measurements (...).

I have not added to the weights of the scale,

 (...) I have not stopped the flow of water,

Nor have I diverted its course."

The inescapable melange personal ethics with corporate ethics (reduced by some to mere compliance today) helps to understand that technique without ethics always becomes perverse. To get rich through work is a reasonable ambition. To do so, at the cost of depriving others of their property and/or rights is punishable as it is atrocious greed, no matter the ideological banner under which one hides. Ethics is not optional, nor is it a stone to throw to disqualify an opponent; it’s the mirror through which we look at ourselves in order to affirm, or not, that we are decent! The Egyptians knew this, but some seem to have forgotten it in recent times.

Javier Fernández Aguado

Javier Fernández Aguado es pensador y speaker; considerado uno de los mayores expertos contemporáneos en Gobierno de personas y organizaciones, además de ser uno de los conferenciantes más solicitados a nivel internacional. Es es Director de MindValue, firma especializada en servicios profesionales para la Alta Dirección, miembro del Top Ten Management Spain y Premio Peter Druker.

Javier Fernández Aguado is a thinker and speaker, considered one of the leading contemporary experts in managing people and organizations, as well as being one of the most sought after speakers internationally. He is a Director of MindValue—a company specialized in professional services for C-level management, a member of Top Ten Management Spain and the Peter Drucker Award.

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