NEXT PRACTICE INSTITUTE WINNING FROM WITHIN: SELECTED WRITINGS by Mobius President and Co-Founder, Erica Ariel Fox
Trump Trumpets Total Disregard for Values in Leadership This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericaarielfox
happen to be in Miami this week, so I watched last night’s Republican debate with a special “local” interest. Like many people, I’ve been shocked when Donald Trump says something that disregards the basic dignity of a large group of human beings. A dazzling new low for Presidential politics. Yet as a leadership adviser to C-suite executives, I was still taken aback last night. Like his previous racist, sexist, triumphalist, and isolationist comments, his message about values in business leadership last night was dead wrong. In discussing the H-1B visa program, Trump said without ambivalence that the program he’s used for years is “very, very bad for workers” and “shouldn’t be allowed.” Why then does he use it? He told us last night in no uncertain terms, because “I’m a businessman, and I have to do what I have to do.” No, Mr. Trump. That is not how good business works. It’s not how genuine leadership works. And it is far, far from a vision for how to make America “great again.” On the contrary, it reinforces the worst stereotypes of business tycoons who are out for themselves and nothing else. Perhaps Mr. Trump didn’t get the memo on Corporate Social Responsibility? Or the nearly universal evolution from corporate “diversity” programs to the broader, more inclusive, “diversity and inclusion” programs? Perhaps he missed the entire movement on the “triple bottom line?” He definitely missed the protocol that people running for President of the United States shouldn’t do things they personally believe are bad for Americans because, well, they can. Here’s the bottom line: business today is not just about the bottom line. Great leaders don’t take action they believe is wrong just because it’s legal. Like command-and-control, that’s an old style of leadership, and a retired mindset of business, whose time has come and gone.
Great CEOs Deliver Shareholder Value with Values As a portrait in contrast, consider the leadership of Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini, who raised the wages of his lowest-paid workers above the minimum wage. Bertolini had learned that many of his low-wage workers were on public assistance, such as food stamps, or Medicaid for their children. In an interview last year, Bertolini said he was shocked “that we as a thriving organization, as a successful company, a Fortune 100 company, should have people that were living like that among the ranks of our employees.” The CEO of one of America’s largest health insurance companies said he saw a potential economic upside, but his main motive was to fix something he saw as plainly unfair. As he told the interviewer, “for us it is as much – probably, for me personally, more – a moral argument than it is a financial one.” While Bertolini is outstanding in his leadership, he is not alone. Think of Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who consistently takes a stand for the duty of big business to help tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. He has vowed to prove, and has demonstrated, that this stance doesn’t compromise Unilever’s competitiveness or performance. Or Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, who boldly spoke out against the contribution of her own industry, and her company, to the public health epidemic of obesity. Her initiatives to sell healthier snacks reflect her sense of where her market is going, to be sure. But the scale of reducing sugar, sodium, and saturated fats in her products is not only because millennials reject them. She’s spoken eloquently about why people running a business need to consider their impact on society. In a dialogue at a Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Conference she said the global economic meltdown happened because “capitalism lost its conscience.” She gave Pepsi the motto “performance with purpose,” and she means it.
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