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Dignity in Entrepreneurship and Decision Making

Richard Phillips with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Richard Phillips with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, July 3 – On June 18, Richard Phillips Jr., a RespectAbility board member with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, spoke to the RespectAbility National Leadership Fellows about the importance of dignity in all aspects of life.

Phillips spoke candidly about his personal experience, leaving high-level work at the Department of Justice to take over his family business, Pilot Freight Services, which provides transportation and logistics solutions for some of the largest and most complex companies around the world.  His experience turning that business around involved both family and professional challenges.  He focused on respecting the dignity of Pilot’s employees, customers and vendors was a key component to that turnaround.

Phillips had no experience in the private sector when he took over his family business, but he ensured that every person on his team felt heard and valued. He created a company culture of transparency and trust.  The concept of running a business with a focus on human dignity now forms the basis of his work at the Yale Divinity School.

Richard Phillips with Abigail Alvarez smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Richard Phillips and Abigail Alvarez

Phillips chooses to use the word “dignity” over “ethics” because it leaves room for personal interpretation and reflection, he explained. “Ethics” suggests a clear right and wrong, while “dignity” simply asks for respect.

At the end of his presentation, Phillips challenged the RespectAbility Fellows and staff to engage in an exercise about difficult decision-making. He submitted a controversial question for discussion. Through this exercise, and the rest of his presentation, we learned that respect and dignity are helpful for building relationships as well as for making informed and rational decisions.

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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This summer, 13 Fellows have the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact [email protected] for more information.

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Abigail Alvarez
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