Leadership is about Life in Society

What kind of new world leaders should we expect from MBA schools? How can these new faces of corporate leadership and resourcefulness influence what to expect next from Africa, the Muslim world, and the booms of resource development we see from Latin America to India and China? This boils down to training to compete for resources and the best minds, while teaching some cultural restraint and leadership skills. This new century leader must compete on leadership in society.

Some Missing Links
We need leaders that have the ability to create social solutions in a swift and severe world. Considering the recent rash of corporate and financial abuses, and the sheer ethical stupidity of some strategies and actions, I am now convinced that businesses that rule by the brute force of technical and terrain advantage alone will slip in their competitive advantage. It takes the grace, force and wit of a diplomat to gain permission to grow if you are an extractive business, a massive global brand, or even a critical supplier of one of the giants these days. Your cars of the future, your future computers and food sources depend on this shift in training. Life as we know it, and society as we expect it, are not possible without such realignment.

Embedding Social Values in Your Products and Leaders
I believe the ultimate definition of a trusted new century leader is someone who can embed social values into products in a strategic and consistent way. Here think about the more efficient homes available in the GE-Masco-Shaw Industries “Environments for Living” development efforts, or the new more efficient computers and datacenters now affordable, or the success of more efficient cars in the current world economy.

I believe that those who can embody these new world values in their products and leadership positions will thrive in what I call the S Frontier, where the severity of global markets, and the swiftness of information dominate normal business planning and decision-making.

In the last three decades, I have explored the attitudes and emotional intelligence that permit new ways to compete on innovation and the needs of sustainability. This is not imagined, but fact-based. As the price of energy increases, as well as the cost of doing business in a world more swiftly informed, it is necessary to develop more transparent leaders we can trust.

We watch GM, Chrysler and the others on the Obama lifeline struggle to meet even severely diminished performance expectations, while others provide a social response to the real-world problem of the depletion and rising price of gasoline. With our society’s increased need for further mobility in a time of declining oil supplies, you can see this as both a balancing act and an intelligent business hedge. In short, they went back to school in social leadership. The leaders compete on price, quality and social needs.

Creating Social Response Capitalists
The companies that will be successful in this new century are those whose leaders can bridge the gap between addressing climate change and rising energy costs while remaining competitive. I now view three prevailing themes of leadership as boundary conditions for achieving success in today’s swift and severe world. These new social leaders need to:

-¢ Tolerate discomforting information while quickly adapting corporate strategy,
-¢ Choose the correct path despite the pressures of others, and
-¢ Inspire others to explore new business models that achieve social goals.

This surprising solution for our smaller and globalized world is the power of innovation, efficiency, and the drive to make less more and the leadership skills needed for us to compete for tomorrow. In the end, leadership is always about taking the intelligent risks to make the needed changes lasting and possible.

Bruce Piasecki is the president and founder of the AHC Group Inc. (www.ahcgroup.com), which since 1981 has provided general management consulting and leadership benchmarking workshops for a range of corporate affiliates and clients. His e-mail is [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.