We live in a time of extraordinary transformation. From climate change around the planet to regime change in the Middle East, from radioactive contamination in Japan to the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan – we are experiencing global events that will impact our world for years to come. And today, like never before, business is the prime mover for shaping attitudes and molding the institutions that educate us and govern our activities.
Hospitals used to be run by nuns, now they’re run by huge corporations. Newspapers used to be owned by families, now they’re owned by multinational companies. Laws in the US used to be written by elected officials, now the most important ones are written by corporate lobbyists who finance the political campaigns of those officials.
Business has, to a large degree, replaced government as the captain and navigator of our modern geo-political ship. Therefore, business leaders are called upon to take a new view of their responsibilities. It is essential that such leaders embrace practices that balance business acumen with a goal of creating a sustainable, just, and thriving world.
For the first time in history, the futures of all our children are interconnected. Our grandchildren will not inherit a planet they will want to live on unless every child, in every country, has that same opportunity. Understanding this fact of modern life underscores the responsibility that business leaders must now accept. It is incumbent on them – and us – to equate success not only with profits but also with how well a company performs in contributing to a sustainable world. When profits are attained through child slavery, environmental destruction, and other practices encouraged by predatory capitalism so prevalent in Third World countries, it is a false profit that ultimately fosters discontent and hatred and often leads to acts of terrorism.
During the first hundred years the US was a country, no corporation could obtain a charter in any state unless it proved that it would serve a public interest; most charters had to be renewed every ten years and the “public interest standard” applied once again. This all ended in the late 1800s when the Supreme Court decided that corporations had the rights, but not the responsibilities, of individuals.
It is time that our corporations move from the goal expounded by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics in the 1970s that “the only responsibility of business is to maximize profits, regardless of the environmental and social costs” to a new goal that encourages reasonable rates of return for investors but only within the context of serving the public. We the People must be the beneficiaries of the most important geo-political force on our planet today.
What we thought were a stable economy, sustainable environment, and reliable energy sources have proven over the past several years to be unpredictable. Being in a leadership role in the world today requires a person to be flexible, forward thinking, and ready to embrace new ideas that will create sustainability within business, the community, and throughout the planet we all share.
“Shapeshifting” is a word that describes the abilities to transform ourselves, institutions, and societies. The most successful business leaders will be those whose companies are the first to shapeshift away from a greedy and unsustainable form of capitalism into one that makes profits while maximizing environmentally and socially responsible policies.
As many of you know, in my writings and public talks I urge people to take action. I am pleased to announce that I am following my own advice. I personally, along with a couple of remarkable institutions, am taking positive actions to alter the course of our geo-political ship.
The Omega Institute, a leader in providing professional workshops, Dream Change, Inc., a nonprofit innovator in sustainable practices I founded in the early1990s, and I are offering a first-ever workshop for leaders and aspiring leaders. This unique event, “Shapeshifting Business Leadership”, includes five days of interactive discussions, experiential activities, networking, and developing approaches for envisioning and realizing strategic goals. It integrates modern business approaches with deep transformational processes with the objective of empowering participants to embrace these changing times and inspiring them to return to their work places with tools to create innovative and sustainable business practices. In order to ensure that future leaders are able to attend, we are offering a number of full scholarships for people under 30 years old.
To find out more: http://www.eomega.org/omega/workshops/a44ece394ee3c33ba328986d1b7510fe .
I hope you will encourage anyone you know who is or may become a leader (in whatever form that takes) to join me on the beautiful Omega campus about an hour and a half up the Hudson River from New York City in June. I hope to see YOU there!