My friend and co-author Raj Sisodia and I recently appeared on “We Are the New World,” a virtual forum that discussed the current state of world affairs highlighted by the current global pandemic, sharing our views, ideas and hopes for a future cultural shift.
(The video below will automatically start at Bob and Raj's section of the discussion.)
Raj, along with his co-chairman of Conscious Capitalism and co-founder of the Container Store, Kip Tindell, and Paul Polman, the co-founder of IMAGINE and former CEO of Unilever, recently wrote a powerful article for Harvard Business Review with similar thoughts on the current crisis.
In “What Good Business Looks Like,” these three Truly Human Leaders look beyond the clouds of the moment and find a little bit of sunlight:
We are seeing a rising number of companies showing up in this crisis with humanity. They are stretching themselves to support stakeholders other than their investors: employees, customers, suppliers, and wider society. For businesses facing an existential threat — those in travel or retail, for instance — this may not be an option. At the other end of the spectrum there are, of course, opportunists seeking to profiteer from this tragedy. But in the middle are countless companies — many more than we could have predicted — showing their better side…
This pandemic is turning out to be a grim but vital reminder that we human beings are here on this planet to take care of each other — and business is a way we can do that at scale. Capitalism, for all its dangers when unfettered, remains the most powerful tool we have ever invented to channel human ingenuity to meet human needs and elevate us to new heights. When the private sector pivots to serve the greater good, its reach and power is immense.
There are so many things we still don’t know about what life will be like after this pandemic, but it is a universal truth that everyone wants to know that who they are and what they do matters. No matter the circumstance, it is our job as leaders to let them know that they do. People need that now and they will definitely need that as we work toward an economic recovery.
A Gallup study I often quote revealed that the number one source of happiness in the world is a good job doing meaningful work among people you enjoy. This is still the world we work toward, despite the current crisis. This is the world we can still create as we rebuild our lives and our economy. Care is needed now more than ever as we navigate an uncertain future.
A connection on LinkedIn recently shared an article from Gallup that I felt was timely, “Maintain and Strengthen Your Culture in Times of Disruption.”
Within the article, there is a section that aligns greatly with qualities of leadership I have been writing and speaking about for quite a while:
Beyond a motivating mission, Gallup's global research has revealed four universal needs of followers:
- Hope: excitement about a better future
- Trust: belief that words will connect with actions
- Compassion: an understanding of others (of how they feel, what is on their mind, knowing you are listening)
- Stability: employees want to know some things will be consistent, even in times of immense change
Leaders should find ways to weave messages of Hope, Trust, Compassion, and Stability into their narrative and communications with employees.
As we navigate these difficult days, we must remain mindful of our responsibility, as leaders, to give those within our span of care a grounded sense of hope, despite the instability around us. As we move forward, we still have the opportunity to give joy and happiness to the people of this world by giving them an opportunity to discover and express their gifts toward a common purpose and return home each day feeling like they matter.
The care we, as business leaders, show to our people today and in the future will rebuild and further build a better world.
As Raj, Kip and Paul wrote:
How a CEO or company showed up in 2020 will be a new and powerful yardstick by which they are measured. Companies that demonstrate a lack of empathy, that don’t stretch themselves to serve others, that remain silent or self-serving, whose leaders refuse to share in the economic pain, risk finding their brands and reputations permanently scarred. The growing clamor is for more responsible and caring C-suites. Perhaps, just perhaps, our future will be shaped by a kind of reverse Darwinism: survival of the kindest and most benevolent, rather than the most ferocious and self-obsessed.
Our obligations as leaders will not change. How are you responding to the challenge?