CEO NEWSLETTER | April
Good Business Facets- Where It Stands or Falls
It is ironic how we all hope to have a good life, good body, good mind, and good spirit and be part of a good society. And yet, we are most of the times, so unwilling to honestly look in the mirror and do the needed work on ourselves to improve our body, mind and most of all, spirit. In order to be ‘good’ and experience the ‘good’, it often requires introspection and lots of hard work on the right issues. ‘Good’ does not fall out of the sky. You may have a much better chance winning a lottery.
The Quester in Ecclesiastes 7: 10 advises: Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. So let us not fall into that trap. However, for perspective, looking back in history can be useful. It is important to get a sense of how our collective story unfolded over years, decades and centuries. It may help us to understand some of our predicaments in modern societies. Today, most societies are characterised by the principles of democracy and the free market. It directs the social order and culture of doing things. If in the past it were philosophies, religious doctrine, science and political ideologies that were the major elements of influence in how people led their lives, then today it is the economy and more specifically, a capitalist and free market economy. One might say the energy that propelled the changes across the globe in recent decades, was the ongoing lure of the emancipation and freedom of the individual. There was -- and still is -- a lot of good in the story, however people who are willing to
keep a balanced perspective of the past, will largely agree that today we are suffering from different ailments and we have lost much of the foundations we have built on in the past.
Rapidly Changing and Differing Values
Moral formation in the way it happened in the 18th century, (and still in some small communities today), by having peer pressure under the watchful eye of revered religious authorities, is no longer something to rely on for ethical behaviour in the workplace - much less are charters for workplace ethics devoid from leadership will and commitment. The world community today interconnects and integrates across both physical and mind-boundaries at an astonishing and still accelerating pace. As people enter the endless world of information, products and services, they are influenced in many different ways and the sole judge of what is good, bad, allowable or not allowable, is the individual. No wonder we experience a decline of social ethics – no one particular view of morality can be imposed on a pluralistic society. Reading the newspapers, watching the news, witnessing or hearing about certain workplace practices, some of us often feel the need to ask: what happened to our moral foundation? Nearly all of us have a growing perception that corruption and greed is taking over the world.
Most people would agree that when an adult reaches the age of say fifty, most things in that person’s life will have changed and in some cases, rather dramatically. But one of the things which have not changed since the birth of humanity is the inherent call of leadership, such that the leader becomes a role model to others. The bigger the scope of responsibility, the more influential and significant is the example lived by the leader. We all live with a level of responsibility, at least towards ourselves, but also towards others and our home, planet earth. How we interpret that responsibility in the world as we know it today, is more up to the individual than ever before. In this sense, we all need to fully embrace the idea that we need to ‘grow’ the leader and leader qualities in ourselves. That is to take full responsibility for body, mind and spirit, living and growing the good potential originally created in us. That said, those in society who are entrusted with formal leadership positions have an immense responsibility to set, above all, an example of character and integrity. This is the essence of good governance which is espoused in the King III Report and which clearly states that good governance is essentially about leadership integrity.
Deeper Levels of Thinking and Awareness
Chief executives are often shifting from one lucrative position to another, with short-term contracts focused only on improving the figures on the balance sheet in the quickest possible time. What are the chances of them having a character-building influence on the members of the organisation and its culture? Bolman and Deal in their book, Leading with Soul, encapsulate our experience well: ‘We move from fad to fad without putting our heart fully into anything. It is not surprising that we feel powerless in the face of so many social and organisational ills. Beneath our helplessness is a spiritual vacuum. It saps our faith, weakens our heart and leaves us foundering.’ Thomas Merton reminds us that more activity will not fill the vacuum: ‘Our being is not to be enriched merely by activity or experience as such. Everything depends on the quality of our acts and our experiences. A multitude of badly performed actions and of experiences only half-lived exhausts and depletes our being. By doing things badly we make ourselves less real.’
Good governance, good business and good society stands or falls in the heart, mind and conscience of the leader. It requires deeper levels of thinking and awareness. It requires dedicated ‘time-out’ time for contemplation. In addition, the most crucial and empowering step is to focus on one or a few persons whom you believe you can serve, with the best you have to offer about what is good, meaningful and eternal – such as becoming a life mentor to someone. The more you mentor someone, the higher will be the standards you will set for yourself. And the higher your standards for yourself, the better you will live as an example for all to see and follow. Only then will we be able to transform our work organisations into communities, rich in meaningful and caring relationships and with passion for the cause. And only then will we experience more of what is real and good.
* For more insights from Gerhard please visit