It is said of the difference between managers and leaders that: Leaders do the right thing and leaders do things right.
Clearly this is not always the case, if it were we would not be in the very significant mess that we are in. Whether this is technically a double dip recession or not is really the least of our worries. Our financial and ecological systems are clearly in an extremely bad way and denial of both of these facts must surely only be possible for a hardcore of the willfully ignorant.
Admission that there might be any problem is the first step in solving it. Acceptance of, at least partial, responsibility comes next. Opening up the possibility that we might be able to do something to change it. Sadly many of that willfully ignorant hardcore are in positions of influence in business and government, inflicting their “motivated blindness” on the rest of us.
I had a passionate response to my post a few weeks ago suggesting that corporations were populated by people and that Google and Apple were not all that bad. I stand by what I said and go further… Corporations are among the most efficient organisational structures yet designed by humans. You may not approve of what they are efficient at, but they deploy resources massively better than any area of government, public sector or even charity. The only organisation that comes close is the military and they are considerably less “efficient” between conflicts.
If we are to resolve the mess we are in corporations have to play a part. Corporate leaders have to admit there are problems and they also have to accept that they are responsible, in part, for both environmental and financial crises.
I feel enormously privileged to be very close to the action on the cutting edge of where corporate culture is going right now and to have clear sight of what could be. I am working with major corporate clients who are instituting genuinely ethical revolutions. It remains to be seen how they will be embraced and whether the outcome will make a difference, but the effort is sincere and authentic and the investment of both cash, credibility and time significant.
This is precisely what I signed up for on my Authentic Business journey 10 years ago. In the wake of 9/11 there was a clear realization that culturally, environmentally and economically we were heading for the rocks. When I started in December 2001 authenticity in business seemed edgy to the point of utopian, today it is a common buzzword. My ambition ten years ago was to play my part in helping some corporation become a role model for authentic business and authentic transformation.
I believe that the time has now come and that the corporate role model of authentic transformation will soon begin. If it is successful the corporation involved will enjoy a clear competitive advantage over their rivals and will become an example and an inspiration for all corporations. Where corporations lead, governments are likely to follow.
I believe that now more than ever before when we find ourselves in the position of being asked to do something we believe to be unethical, inauthentic or dangerous – we have an alternative. We are in an epochal shift a values shift.
What is considered to be ethical moves. 2000 years ago killing people for entertainment was considered acceptable, 100 years ago in the UK women were unable to vote. Five years ago we turned a blind eye to phone hacking by the media and so on.
Now our frustrations with corporate excesses have moved societies values on again and for corporations to be trusted in the future they will need to sign up to universal social values and live them, or find themselves on the wrong side of history. It is our responsibility to hold them to high ethical standards as customers, employees, shareholders or just neighbours. To do this we must have the courage to speak up and challenge when we feel human values are being transgressed. The more noise we make the faster the change.
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