By William Craig
Business moves the world. So how do you want your company to contribute?
To one degree or another, many of us feel the world today lacks quality leadership. But what better way to fight against that trend than by inspiring greatness in our future leaders? It all begins with leading by example. That’s a tall order, though, and not very specific — so let’s explore seven ways your company can assume thought leadership in the ongoing search for a better quality of life for all.
- Giving Back to the Community
If no person is an island unto themselves, that goes double for companies. We tend to think of our careers as somehow separate from the rest of waking life, but the truth is that communities and businesses are very much intertwined. Communities are responsible for the growth and success of businesses — and the other way around, too.
So? Give back as often as you can to the community that has made your business what it is today. We’ll talk in greater detail in a moment about what corporate citizenship should look like, but just getting that sentiment into your corporate culture and set of values is a great place to start.
- Be a Better Global Citizen
Making your business the source of positive influence in your community is one thing. But how are you being a global citizen?
Some folks in America seem to believe globalization should be feared and fought against, but rational business leaders know better. As the world draws closer together, we’ll be better prepared than ever to tackle some of the problems that affect us all in equal measure. But first we have to recognize our place in the larger global community.
One example would be The Exterior Company, based in Lancaster, PA, which recognizes their role on the global stage by contributing some of their profits to organizations committed to raising the standard of living in the poorer parts of the world.
- Know Your Values
Let’s get philosophical. Do you know what you value, personally? Would an onlooker identify your company as a “principled” one, even if they might not agree with the principles themselves?
The world needs businesses and leaders who know what they believe in. Not so we can blindly agree with them, but because all viewpoints help make the conversation a richer one. Even Hobby Lobby helped improve the conversation surrounding LGBTQ rights in America — even if they are, manifestly, and according to most Americans, standing on the wrong side of the issue.
American consumers wish for and respect companies that take the time to craft cohesive and forward-thinking sets of values. Why not show thought leadership here, and in the process, improve your company’s standing in the public eye?
- Donate Your Time
Money is a very valuable resource. But to many folks who don’t come from privilege, time is an even more precious commodity.
You can help support the lives of others — and lead by example in the process — by committing some of your free time to pro-social pursuits. Think of what would happen in the world if every employer allowed and encouraged their team members to commit some of their billable hours to charity work or another kind of community service.
Think of it like this: Corporate America boasts some of the most gifted and thoughtful people in the world. Folks for whom problem-solving comes naturally. What a shame and a waste it would be if all that talent were used merely to generate profits for private enjoyment.
- Raise the Standard of Living
If you’re new to business, you’ll recognize quickly that the conversation around workers’ well-being has changed in recent years. For example, global competition has thrown into sharp relief the ways that American corporate culture lags behind the rest of civilization. We have not yet joined the consensus on the fundamental right to paid sick leave and parental leave, for example.
There may be no better way to lead by example than to demonstrate how worthy your employees are of living high-quality lives. Your workers are your brand ambassadors — you want them to be able to go out into the world and proudly say their needs are taken care of. This improves the quality of our conversation everywhere.
- Raise Your Employees’ Awareness of the World Around Them
I try not to use this column to tout my own business, but I do take every chance to support my team of employees who are dedicated to supporting the lives of others through our FX Builds program. We have been exceedingly fortunate over the years in attracting a very high caliber of employee — folks who genuinely care about making the world a better place. And so we wanted to help them achieve something tangible in service to that commitment.
With FX Builds, we’ve helped establish a culture within our organization that ties daily excellence to funds-matching for charitable giving. We’ve already helped break ground on schools in distant countries where public education isn’t something that can be taken for granted.
The point, simply, as it is with other entries in this list, is to make your local team more aware of the larger world and to look for ways to live more fully and conscientiously within it. It’s probably easier than you might think. And if you do it thoughtfully, you can leverage the passion your team already brings to the table.
- Focusing on Sustainable Living
According to the scientific community, Earth is experiencing its sixth major extinction event even as we speak. Is that enough of a wake-up call?
It is clear that the individual has failed planet Earth. None of us could reuse enough plastic shopping bags in fifteen lifetimes to reverse the climate change that is already making life difficult in the poorer parts of our planet. And nothing about this is going to improve until we admit there’s a problem and agree on who’s in the best position to make a difference.
That means business leaders must actually lead by example, doing the heavy lifting the individual cannot on their own. It means taking advantage of cheaper-than-ever solar power everywhere you can afford to have it installed. It means not using more paper or other finite resources to do your work than is strictly necessary. It means turning off the computers in your office overnight.
To be perfectly honest, company leaders don’t have to look very far at all to lead the way in sustainable living. And if we can do it in the fight for sustainability, we can do it in every venue that requires decisive, progressive-minded leadership.
If every employer in the world used their resources and influence to help solve this and other crises we face in the world today, the future would be very bright indeed. Word is getting out that pro-social companies — being, after a fashion, like families themselves — are in a truly unique position to change life as we know it for the better.