Leadership Development and the Future of Business

What is the Future of Business and why is Leadership Development important? Well, since I am not a psychic nor of divine providence, I, like you, can only guess. However, there are some clear writings on the multitude of walls around the world. Here are some of the writings I am seeing clearly written.

1. BIG changes are in place. We are not rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, not this time. No amount of tinkering will allow a return to the status quo. We are in process of seismic shifts.

2. Seismic shifts require a NEW mindset. However, is is not about ejecting the old in entirety, but taking from the old and transcending to the new. In order to do this we need to reconnect with the very purpose of business. What is it there for? Is it just a venue to create big money for a small group of people? Is it to take advantage of times, events and circumstances – to rape and pillage? Why was business created? For what reason? Does the model we have now work? Is it good for us for tomorrow? How committed is our company to leadership development and why?

Show me the leaders with the new mindset? Certainly they are not the ex CEO of Lehman Brothers. Maybe we could look at some of the young guys behind Google, MySpace? And how is their mindset different? Do they thirst for leadership development that builds not just growth, but perspective and width?

3. The business model we have now is flawed and the flaws are finally showing cracks. How do I know this. Well, here are a few of the cracks.

The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider every day. Plus, less people are in the wealthy group. What is good about this model? Not much, unless you are one of those 3-5% of the wealthy.

We are going through accelerated acceleration, where our technology is changing each second. However, the business of business has not really changed in 400 years. Show me one other institution that could say the same? Marriage, Monarchy, the Democratic process? Our leadership model has also largely stayed the same. The system is designed around a hierarchy, which is not bad but could be far more integrative, moving to a holarchical system-similar to complex biological systems. (The human body does do a pretty good job in managing complex functions)

Making money from money without any contribution of any kind in the form of work-be it physical, mental, or spiritual, is a sham. Multiply zero by zero and we get zero. Nothing comes from nothing. However, this little game has been in play for many years, and now we are beginning to see the truth of it. The future of business is about creating real value, value that adds too and has meaning.

Paying people to do nothing else but to show an increase in shareholder value is an extremely narrow perspective of worth. What about how they did this, who and what was stepped on or over to do this, and what are the costs-today, tomorrow, in 20 years and in 200 years? Surely at the least the CEO’s of large companies should be measured through an integrated lens that assesses profitability AND happy, fulfilled, engaged people, AND the long term effects on the environment AND the level of input to the local and greater community AND the value of overall contribution to society that their companies product adds? If the CEO’s score well on all aspects, then pay them well. But don’t pay them obscene salaries for only making money. On this note the demand for leadership development is HIGH.

Endless growth, year in an year out, is unsustainable. No where in nature, with the exception of cancer, does endless growth exist. And even cancer has its use-by date, when the host is consumed by the cancer. To every spring comes an autumn and winter, enabling a new spring. Keep farming the same land over and over and it will fail. This is not rocket science. We need to take time to consolidate, breath, rest. And we need to build this into our businesses consciously. Show me the business that has an integrated model that assumes growth, followed by consolidation and recovery, followed by the next level of growth. And would we, the shareholder, be happy with this? Would you be accepting of your superannuation portfolio going through growth, then a platform stage, then growth? What would you require as the shareholder to be satisfied with this model?

Our system for measuring success and performance is a dud. It is mostly based on endless growth, and increasing shareholder return (whether that share holder is you bank, your investments, your spouse, or the shareholders). We need more integral methods to measure success.

And by the way, who said that the work of a teacher of our children is worth so much less (extremely less) than the work of some guy who knows how to make money for the shareholder? No, I am not a socialist (for lack of a better description I would say I am a conscious capitalist)- I just question our values. The value of caring for others is rated as low. Yet if you have ever needed care you know how much you would pay to get the best. And you know just how much a good carer gives above and beyond the norm. Are they really worth so much less that the Fuld’s of the world (ex CEO of Lehman Bros.)  One of the biggest questions on the table now is what are our values and do they serve us? For until we reassess our values around our measure of success we will all be caught in the same old merry-go-round of growth and greed, and the desire for more stuff. Money is NOT the measure of success. It is only a fraction of the measure. Ask anyone who has a lot of money.

4. The environment demands change. Yep, its true, whether you believe in the extremes of environmental catastrophe or not, the elephant in the room is that we must have more awareness of our every action and its effects on everything else.(Cradle to Cradle) And yes, increasing our global population is not going to help. The earth does not need one more baby. Increasing the population may be good for the short term, to keep the eternal growth engine going, but is surely is stuffing our future. We need to get creative and figure another way to take care of our elderly, keep the new jobs going, and all the other goods and services ever increasing numbers of new babies create. (I am not advocating no more children born, but we really don’t need more than two children per couple-unless of course you adopt one of the many children who need love and care.)

I could write more about any one of these topics. And I am sure I could find more writings on more walls indicating that the times they are a changing.

Change is a messy process. Humans usually find it mildly scary to frankly terrifying. At best we don’t like it.

Companies right now are slashing budgets. Trimming fat. There is a lot of fat that is good to trim. For example- executive perks like limousine services, first class everything, and fat bonus’s. Only recently I heard about the CEO who insisted that the very staff who had tied themselves in knots to meet target had had their Christmas Party budget slashed to the price of a cheap meal and a glass of wine, while he refused to take a taxi to the airport and insisted on waiting for a limousine. The CEO of JAL (Japanese Airlines) took a different track. He slashed his own salary, in line with other staff and took away all of his entitlements. He wants the company and its people to all pull through. So he started with himself. Which company would you prefer to work with?

In 1992 Bill Gates quoted in Forbes magazine “Take our 20 best people away, and I will tell you that Microsoft will become an unimportant company.”

What separates Microsoft from other companies is not its product, but its people.

And it times of massive change people need support, development and input on their NEW mindset. They need leadership development and not just any kind, but the kind that speaks to the future of business.

Slashing the leadership development budget shows that the company is operating in the old world of business, where value is placed on the share holder return and growth and the CEO’s continued bonus scheme. In these companies at these times, the issue of people again goes to the bottom of the pile of priorities. People…people? Who are they?

Quotes Rupert Murdoch in the second of his series of Boyer Lectures this past weekend, November 2008, in the midst of the worst global economic crisis is 100 years.

“If you want to keep your company in the lead, you need to invest in your people.”

Now more than ever.

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