Leadership with a Purpose

By Etheline Desir | Desir Group |

February is Black History Month, and an opportune time to reflect on the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s transformative leadership philosophy on society as a whole. He led with a solemn sense of responsibility to teach and empower those around him, propagating the concepts of service and non-violence for the betterment of society. Increasingly, we are seeing and hearing about organizations that seek first to serve and bring greater good to their stakeholders by optimizing profits for the benefit of all, in some logical proportion.

I was recently introduced to a philosophy called, “Firms of Endearment,” coined by three authors and published by Wharton School of Business. Based on extensive research, they concluded that the best firms are those that deliver emotional, experiential and social value to all their stakeholders, from customers and partners to investors and society. By emphasizing such principles as authenticity and empathy, the authors contended that…”companies gain ‘share of heart’ not just share of wallet”, and, in the long run, are able to gain competitive advantage over companies that are focused only on profits.

True leaders, they contend, focus on the interests of the whole and less on their own self-interests—they understand that the full welfare of one depends on the well being of all. They are compelled to create organizations in which the well-being of people is as important, or even more so, than profit because they understand that profit without purpose has value only to a limited few.

Such a heretical notion flies in the face of the stereotypical leaders who are lauded for their fierce determination to maximize stockholder value, giving little consideration to the implications that such beliefs have on all others. They command others by virtue of their positions, not by the content of their character.  They are so consumed with self-interest and are blind to the well-being of others.

In the spirit of greater mutuality and inclusion, developing teams and organizations of people who love their work and love each other in the context of their work ultimately produce productivity and well-deserved profitability for which all can be proud, as demonstrated by companies like Microsoft, Starbucks, SAS, Dell and many others that believe in the betterment of the greater society.

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