Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers

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What differentiates globally responsibly leaders from our existing leaders?

One realization that stands out among the many important research findings of the past two decades in the field of leadership: the need for a shift in consciousness of the leader. We have come to understand that leader development first and foremost is personal development, a capability for reflective awareness which can be observed by the way a leader relates to himself, his environment and various aspects of the world.

  • Reflective Awareness is expressed through a universal perspective. This includes: an evolved level of consciousness and personal awareness; clarity, focus and commitment on a personal and organizational level; deep values and ethics; humility and humanity; empathy and resonance with others. This attitude forms the non-negotiable foundation of a leader. As a matter of fact, without this attitude, the development of the three dimensions falls within an old paradigm and will miss its intention and impact entirely.
  • Responsible Leadership is reflected by a visionary perspective. This includes: strategic skills, extraordinary communication skills, an excellent adaptability and attitude towards learning, a talent as a motivator, enabler and team players, an awareness of patience vs. impatience or doing and being, the capacity to span boundaries and bear tension, respect for diversity, adhesion to ethics and anthropological values.
  • Sustainable Entrepreneurship is reflected through a long-term perspective. This includes: the ability to lead organizational sustainability transformations, an advanced capacity for creative, critical, and divergent thinking, both street-smarts and an evolved intellect, the ability to question the status quo and to dismantle complexity, a facility to handle general management challenges and to solve problem integrally, implementation skills, and advanced mastery of all relevant subject knowledge to get any given job done.
  • Enlightened Statesmanship is demonstrated through a societal perspective. It includes: the ability to formulate an inspiring, higher-order vision, a sensitivity and awareness for societal concerns, a capacity to serve a cause larger than oneself, a drive to serve the Common Good, the ability to create and function within broad stakeholder networks, fluency with all aspects of sustainability, and a profound desire to be of service.

Figure 1: The four dimensions of globally responsible leaders

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Reflecting on the underlying paradigms in management education (2)

Business education has been a victim of countless unconscious, un-reflected choices that have deeply affected what and how we teach business and management. If we want to make progress in developing reflective and responsible managers and leaders, we need to reflect on the underlying paradigms in management education. These debates have been conspicuously absent in the classroom. As a result, we have robbed our students – future business leaders – the chance to reflect on these crucial issues and to develop their own perspectives. These include the following:

Who do we educate?

We need to start by defining who such leaders will be, what positions they will occupy, where they will be needed most, and what competences, skills and attitudes they must possess. We should discuss if we best educate a limited elite or as many potential leaders as possible; if we should re-educate current leaders, emerging talent or today and tomorrow’s youth. And which “investment mix” would have the biggest positive impact. How do societal changes, gender issues and other relevant issues provide new requirements and voices to leadership issues[1]. As such, is it more important to ensure that every citizen assumes his and her personal responsibility for a common good or can such a burden continued to be left on the shoulders of a selected and elected few? How do we address the issue of individual vs. collective leadership? What is the importance of educating women, parents and minorities both for direct leadership as well as indirect role modelling in society’s smallest unit, the family and stomping ground of future leaders? Today, leaders with a general business and management knowledge are sought in domains far beyond “only” business. NGO’s, governments, not-for-profit organizations, small family business, start-up companies, independent consultants, schools (including business schools) all need to be managed more professionally and more effectively. Our client is no longer “just business” and it is no longer just business that we should be teaching.

A new wave of change is emerging just now: the 4 billion of people at the bottom of the pyramid – these people in developing and emerging countries who desperately need to know how to go about becoming effective actors for the world by providing products and services in their communities that are relevant for the society. Channelling these people’s desire into effective entrepreneurial thinking that is embedded in responsible and sustainable behaviour is the biggest emerging challenge in education world-wide. What is the role business schools can, should and must play in there?

[1]        In May 2011, the Swiss government voted for a controlled shut-down of its nuclear power plants over the next 20 years – of the seven elected ministers, the three men were overruled by the four women. The Swiss president, one of the four women, stated that such a decision came with a price and that new solutions needed to be invented to compensate for the loss of energy provided, however, that this was the only right decision to take for future generations.