The time is NOW for leadership
If you are feeling anything like me you’d be forgiven for thinking we have stepped into some sort of parallel universe in recent times. For some time now we’ve been coping with (and hopefully at least in part responding differently to) the economic challenges brought about since the 2008 ‘crash’. Admittedly there is still a hugely long way to go before we will have made the sort of changes needed to have a truly healthy economy based not on consumer growth and consumerism but underpinned by true sustainability. And now, in addition to this area of massive change, we are facing a fundamental shift in our political landscape.
The uncertainties, the openings and opportunities for change and voices to be heard is far more vibrant following recent major political events such as Brexit, the election of President Trump, and the recent resignation of the Italian Prime Minister following a referendum on reform, with more yet to come as other European countries consider their leadership over coming months.
And as I reflect on this world we are creating I find myself coming back to the role of the corporate world and in particular the leaders in prominent positions in our major private institutions. I have long held the view that great leadership in these organisations can and will change our world for good and one of the underpinnings of great leadership is a strong sense of purpose – personal purpose and corporate purpose.
Now more than ever leaders need to examine their core values and the reasons why they hold the positions they do and how they leverage that purpose within the workings of the collective machinery we call organisations. The reach, presence and impact of global business is vast – and so, therefore, is the ability to make a difference on the ground in local communities and to work with real issues that extend beyond the single pointed pursuit of profit.
To make this a reality requires courage, as shown by Paul Polman at Unilever as he challenges the short termism of shareholders and the financial community or big picture vision as shown by Ben and Jerry’s CEO Sondheim when they decided to get involved in issues of voter suppression using their brand to do so.
So as we observe our world changing, it could not be a more perfect or opportune time to revisit our sense of purpose, examine the stated and lived purpose of our company and commit to a step up wherever needed to play our part in changing this world for the better.