Cowboy ethics

As an American child of the Fifties and Sixties, I grew up on westerns on TV and in movie theaters. John Wayne, Marshal Dillon in “Gunsmoke,” the “Bonanza” Cartwrights. Good guys in white hats. Not until recently, though, did I hear about “cowboy ethics.”

It seems that a veteran institutional investor, Jim Owen, a former partner in NWQ Investment Management, has started a nonprofit Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership and written a book called Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, among others.

I ran across cowboy ethics belatedly from a news story on some people in Wyoming trying to write some of this philosophy into the state’s statute books.

If you’ve got a bit of cowboy in your background, you can learn the basics of cowboy ethics from Owen’s Ten Principles to Live By. I’ll share three of them:

  • Ride for the brand.
  • Talk less and say more.
  • Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

In an age of corporate scandals, revisiting your core values seems appropriate.


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