For the last 25 years, I have worked with executive leaders from all along the political spectrum. I've enjoyed thoughtful conversations that strayed well beyond the marketplace to world events and politics, social issues and the arc of history. These conversations nearly always took place behind a closed door or over a private meal, as part of a trusted relationship. But I've always viewed them as important, helping my clients give voice to the context of their leadership role.
I am beginning to recognize that some of these conversations need to come out of the closet. Individuals who aspire for authority also need to assume responsibility for a civil dialogue about the world around us. As technology and social media create a more open, fluid and pervasive conversation in the public square, leaders must recognize that they have a role to play.
“Individuals who aspire for authority also need to assume responsibility for a civil dialogue about the world around us.”
I wouldn't suggest that business leaders project their beliefs or political agendas into their organizations or the public square with force and without filter. But given the increasing vacuum of functional political leadership, I am beginning to question whether business leaders need to step up to help difficult conversations take place productively. Diversity and inclusion are not about an optimal headcount of different kinds of people—it’s about helping human beings wrestle with the all-too-human discomfort about recognizing our endless variations and finding the space and the means to work productively together—as colleagues, citizens, and friends.
This New York Times article by David Gelles The Moral Voice of Corporate America highlights the recent trend of business leaders taking a public, moral stand on issues that go well beyond their immediate corporate interests. While I’m far from clear about where the appropriate lines are, it is worth considering where your responsibilities lie as a leader.
“…highlights the recent trend of business leaders taking a public, moral stand on issues that go well beyond their immediate corporate interests.”
What I know to my toes, what I have placed at the center of my career, is the idea that leadership matters. I’d encourage you to ask yourself what you should do with the authority you have to improve our ability as a society to talk to one another. Under what circumstances, as a business leader, is it important to take a stand in the public square? Whatever your answer, I believe that wrestling with the question will help you define your leadership intent.