I had a short meeting with a friend last evening at a neighborhood restaurant. He was hired to change the corporate culture of a company controlled by private equity investors and run by a hard-charging CEO focused almost solely on near-term profits and operational metrics. Life for the employees of the company is no fun. Vendors are regularly mercilessly beat up and the CEO seems to thrive on chaos.
My friend was befuddled. “Why was I hired? This CEO shows no signs of wanting the change the culture”. He asked me a great question. “What’s the opposite of a fear-based culture?” I said it was a values-based culture. A culture where the featured PowerPoint slide of a company presentation is a bubble diagram with a center bubble that says “employees” and is surrounded by bubbles with other stakeholder names in them like vendors, customers and shareholders (this has been the philosophy of many high-performing companies such as Costco and Men’s Warehouse). It’s a culture based on nonnegotiable values like love, sustainability, respect, and excellence (love and respect are the core values you hear Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines talk about).
I have enjoyed watching Chip Conley launch his virtual conference recently called Enlightened Business Summit. If you want to look at more examples about values-based companies check out the recordings from this conference. Chip gathered together the key thought leaders on the this topic to talk about what I judge to be more inspiring, sustainable and economically-sensible leadership models that focus on people, profits and planet.
Am I being naïve when I talk about values-based leadership and the need for it in business today? No doubt you have stories about ruthless leaders who make billions (I know about a few of these too). Why doesn’t everyone aspire to be a conscious, compassionate leader?