“Ethical values, leadership, and trust are key issues confronting executives attempting to effectively respond to the emerging and exponentially accelerating force for global, societal, and organizational change” (Fry & Slocum Jr., 2008)
“Rare are the leaders of organizations who will tell you that their people don’t matter. However, there is a big difference between understanding the value of the people inside an organization and actually making decisions that consider their needs. It’s like saying, my kids are my priority, but always putting work first.” (Chapman & Sisodia, 2015).
Within these two quotes rests insight into how leadership needs to right the shareholder only ship and steer companies and more importantly leaders, back on course. Capitalism got off course early when the system quickly embraced and was hijacked by leadership that celebrated self-serving agendas, mainly personal wealth at the expense of everyone else.
Capitalism is not bad, money is not bad, shareholder value, is.. not.. bad, and profit definitely is not bad, however, people, namely titled individuals that lead companies, but were never truly leaders, created dislike, and distaste for a system that in reality has lifted millions across the globe out of poverty, which is not bad at all. So the system is not to be blamed, nor any of the financial elements attached to capitalism, the blame rests solely on individuals that knowingly, and intentionally used a system that has the potential to elevate the many, into a machine that serves the few. It is not a matter of, as many proponents state, people being lazy that capitalism fails to help more people fairly (not equally), it is that the system is rigged against most people regardless of how hard they work. If working hard was the criteria for financial independence, then there should be a multitude of millionaire police officers, researchers, construction workers, and teachers.
The answer to transformation is in the leader. I use “in” very intentionally as nothing will change unless two things happen, one, those in current leadership positions need to self-reflect instead of self-reward, and two, individuals without titles need to realize they too are leaders. In both instances the key is internal reflection and self-awareness that reveals what is possible for humanity, versus remaining comfortable in the self-delusion of what I serve is myself. By default when you lead, you also serve others, and a purpose. For too long that purpose has been narrowly defined as creating shareholder value. When the only goal is wealth generation for a specific group, then the only decisions made are ones that serve the few. So then laws are passed that support the decisions to serve the few, companies are created and people promoted that fit the model of the few, and so communities are created that work to create financial wealth for the few. This is where we find ourselves; this is the world of Enron, Adelphia Communications Corp., Arthur Andersen, Tyco International and WorldCom Inc., of banking failures that devastate lives but spare (and often still reward) the few.
Again, to transform this reality means transforming ourselves; which means working hard on our own hearts, so they are cleared to lead others, instead of rewarding soiled minds that command others.
Our hearts continuously communicate with our minds, the majority of all information in our body goes upwards into our mind from our heart, and not from our mind to our body. Yet we discount the messages, the constant reminders from our heart of what could be, but if we would just pause to reflect and listen to our hearts, and then decide our course of action, we would generate emotional, and physical wellbeing, as well as financial worth. Why would this work, because leadership that considers their heart considers their core values, when values are known they can guide decisions that remain in alignment with serving a greater purpose than the self, thus they intentionally step into brilliance, and create cultures in which others can also find their power, their hearts. When we pay attention to both our heart and our mind we stay aware and move towards coherence, and harmony. When we as individuals are in harmony we create organizations that are harmonious, and profits that are in harmony with the purpose of the company. As Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia stated in the forward of their book, Everybody Matters, “when we say our people matter but we don’t actually care for them, it can shatter trust and create a culture of paranoia, cynicism, and self-interest.” By seeking to “know thyself” we can break the cycle of self-service, which has caused not only company failures, and employee pain, but has also created collateral damage due to toxic environments, and leaders that send anxious and stressed moms, dads, sisters and brothers home to their families, thus infecting generations with cynicism, self-doubt, or even worse, the belief that the only way to succeed is to beat others down.
The world is changing, it always will, and what I love about all the financial disasters, failed leadership, and greed-based organizations are that their own actions, and their love of money over people, are the very things that are bringing them down, causing people to see another way, allowing space for the emergence of heart-centric leadership that serves a purpose greater than the “self”.