As the impacts of business on the environment, on society, and on individuals became too substantial to ignore in many realms, and cheaper and easier ways to measure those impacts were devised, the rules of doing business shifted. Considerations that hadn’t previously complicated the plans of corporate leaders started getting factored in. In other words, it was no longer possible to ignore externalities.
Things I think about: How leaders of the future will display a new brand of leadership, with evolving concepts and adapted metrics that evaluate what it means to be an effective leader, or a successful organization. Leaders (like capitalism) can no longer ignore externalities, or practice silo’d thinking.
Generally, globalization has increased our exposure to the variety of human conditions and needs. Likewise, the economic crisis exposed massive flaws in a dominant financial system, blinded by greed and self-promotion. These conditions demand that new leaders demonstrate a greater savviness around the long-term effects of their organizations and decisions (externalities! externalities!), as well as the social needs of their communities. This will lead to greater integration between the private and public sector, more collaborative work and more community-oriented missions (Related post to follow: Globalization really means localization. Get excited.)
To excel in the global marketplace, organizational leaders will need to find comfort in complexity and embrace the enhancing effects of multidisciplinary efforts. As we are able to more easily collect data and diagnose root causes, as well as direct and indirect effects, we can see how city planners are able to use their decisions and designs to incentivize healthy behavior in a population, and how investment in unconventional entrepreneurs can have sustainable effects for a marginalized community. Developing the metrics and discourse to measure these developments will be an arduous task, requiring a new type of leader who, for example, dismisses the separation between profit and social benefit, and is comfortable in both languages.
Leaders will always face tough decisions that require courage and accountability. I think that organizational decision-makers will soon contemplate the benefits of sharing their learnings and processes of achievement, which might require reconsidering their overarching mission and goals. Perhaps contradictory to a conventionally competitive market, this process will reduce redundancy in social efforts and demonstrate an awareness and transparency that consumers find desirable.
To me, it is critical that the relationship between business and society be constructive and mutually reinforcing. To effectively address social and economic disparities, business leaders will have to collaborate with governments, nonprofits and philanthropists, and act as careful stewards of social benefit while promoting efficiency and innovation. New leaders operating in a global marketplace will need to demonstrate adaptive learning, analytical prowess, and the ability to integrate many moving parts into a cohesive framework. (I guess it goes without saying: With a commitment to creative and collaborative problem solving, and a passion to cultivate innovation and curiosity, I want to be one of these new leaders. Well, it could have gone without saying, but I said it anyways. You’re welcome.)
This guy has some thoughts too. The tone of this is pretty serious and conceptual, I know. I’ll lighten up and bring in the concrete examples soon. Maybe.