Why leaders need to jump into the ring in 2022.


The ring is a reference from Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. The book acknowledges courageous leaders who take on difficult challenges even when the resistence to change threatens to knock them down.


With so many past wrongs to right, more leaders need to jump into the ring in 2022. It will take courage to look at the facts and to own your role in the issues, but no one can afford to turn a blind eye or sit on the sidelines anymore.


To remain competitive, leaders need a plan to address inequality and climate change. The race is on to attract the brightest people needed to tackle the toughest problems. Leaders courageous enough to join those on the leading edge will reap the rewards.


If you’re not convinced that you need to act, ask yourself:


1/ Can we have healthy people without a healthy planet?


As a society, we are consuming significantly more natural resources than what the earth generates in a year. August 22 is reportedly the date each year when as a society we dip into the natural resource reserves. As with debt, at some point the burn rate becomes unsustainable. It might be 2050 but given the amount of severe weather and resulting disasters, it’s likely sooner rather than later.


2/ Can we have well-being without trust?


Many lost trust in science, the mainstream media and the government during the pandemic. As a society, we couldn’t agree on the basic facts and measures needed to contain the virus. Consequently, countless lives and significant financial gains were needlessly lost. We’ll eventually win the Covid war but the economic impact will linger for years longer than it would have otherwise. We’re all paying the price of mistrust one way or another. People talk about a return to normal, but a return to a new normal is more realistic and likely necessary.


3/ Can we enjoy the fruits of success when others have none?


The homeless are becoming more than just an annoyance for the more fortunate. During Covid, they also elevated the health risks for everyone. Climate change will likely displace more people, put more lives at risk and make life more uncomfortable for everyone else. The situation on the US Southern border is a good example of what’s likely to come unless we change.


Moving forward


There is a way forward and for some, it will challenge their deeply ingrained beliefs about capitalism. Milton Friedman’s trickle down theory has been disproven a number of times and now is believed to be a key driver of wealth inequality. John Smith’s theory of free markets is also deeply flawed. We know now that without proper regulation markets can be manipulated and they don’t always correct without intervention. The 2008 financial crisis is a prime example.


Economic theories are just a system of ideas that need to evolve with new data and insights. Scientists understand that better than anyone.


Evolving Capitalism


What we know now is that business leaders need to take a much broader view and consider more factors in their strategic plans than return on investment. It will require some to work against their self interest and adapt their leadership style to transition Corporate America to Stakeholder Capitalism.


If you haven’t read the book, Net Positive yet add it to your list. The book is coauthored by the former CEO of Unilever and is based on his experience of leading a net positive company. 


As you might infer from the title, a net positive company is a way of doing business which puts back more into society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out.


Key steps for transitioning to a Net Positive company 


With quotes from Harvard Business Review:


1/ Lead with purpose and values.


The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, launched 120 years after [the initial mission statement], vowed “to make sustainable living commonplace”—an expanded purpose that’s grounded solidly in the original vision of serving people.


2/ Work with your partners to build a circular economy.


When companies partner with peers on low-risk efforts that make everyone more efficient and sustainable, they create space for tackling harder, more systemic problems.


3/ Work with governments to serve the public interest rather than lobby for your own.


Net positive companies propose solutions rather than wait for (or complain about) regulations that tell them what to do. The system is healthier and stronger for their efforts.


Hopefully, we all use the words courage, net positive and stakeholder capitalism so much that they make the list of words in 2022. With that, I wish you a Happy New Year!


“An expert is someone who, over many years, manages to remain confident enough to keep trying and humble enough to keep learning.” – James Clear