Current business structures and practices require that publicly held corporations answer to their shareholders. Shareholders want to see the value of their investment consistently grow and as long as that happens, shareholders are happy and so, apparently, is the corporation. Unfortunately, tracking ‘success’ with this narrow and self-interested a focus, can lead to significant negative impact on employees, supply chains, the environment, customers and even, in the long term, shareholders. This form and practice of business is no longer sustainable, as evidenced today by our current economic climate, environmental crisis in the gulf, employee engagement statistics and escalating bankruptcies.
Companies who are proactive, visionary, and responsive and who contribute to the long term happiness and well being of all of the stakeholders in the corporation are thriving. In contrast, the companies who continue to prioritize the bottom line, at any cost, are failing. If we have learned anything from the economic and environmental crises of late, it is that the corporation and its impact on the world are not separate.
It is time for a radical change[i] in how we do business. In using the word radical, we mean that this change must be intentional and must spring from the root source recognition of our interconnectedness and impact on each other. It must be based in loving ourselves, each other and the world around us. Make no mistake, love is the radical change for love is a radical act. Organizations, as employers of many in our developed societies, need to play a leading role in how we achieve a world at peace and societies living in harmony.
Truly radical change happens over time, even though it might appear, as if it happens without warning. We suggest that the foundation of the change called for now is a shift from hierarchical, control based systems of management, through bosses or managers to a system of wisdom-based self-directed leadership by community, which we have termed “SDL” for Self-Directed Leadership. SDL defined is self-responsibility, self-accountability, passion, creativity and purpose within the container of our interconnectedness/recognition of our impact on each other, ruled by our mutual respect for life. Our theory is that this will result in greater innovation and fulfillment. Our goal is balance between the self-interest of the individual or organization and the context within which it operates.
As we recognize that what we think, believe, do and say, has impact on our communities and the world, we begin naturally to act with conscious intention in service of
the greater good, and are emotionally rewarded by feeling more fulfilled, healthy and engaged. When our actions incorporate respect for life and each other, when we learn how to listen to each other without the need to make one right and one wrong, when we learn that every voice needs to be heard, when we stand on opposite sides with the objective of finding the commonality and mutual goals, then we will have achieved true democracy.
We propose that our new understanding of the balance in the human motivation system may function as the best model for how to run a sustainably high performance organization. Develop a balance between profit and responsibility, between the individual and the collective in business, follow and honour the intrinsic needs of the people within the organization and profits will follow. In short;
Structuring the WAY we do business to honour the needs of the individuals IN the business is the best way to maximize profit and minimize, and even eliminate the collateral damage that business has had over the past few centuries.
As we transform the workplace to fully leverage the internal motivation systems we are born with, namely the desire to love and care for ourselves and for our communities, the workforce engages automatically. The organizations that adopt this new way of being will thrive and grow the bottom line to the delight of their shareholders, who may very likely turn out to be their stakeholders. Profits and bottom line success for companies who honour and work withtheir human systems will far surpass those that do not. The organizations that do not step up will become obsolete. The new generation of employees will not tolerate anything less than an engaging, supportive and fulfilling workplace.
[i] Radical = root
1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.
2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.
3. Favouring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.
Written By Sharon Lewis and Annie Gelfand
© Copyright 2010 Sharon Lewis and Tammy Anne Gelfand.
All Rights Reserved.