Why is a CEO’s job so exhilarating, energizing, and rewarding but also daunting? It is exhilarating because a CEO has the unique opportunity to build a great, high-performance, and purposeful organization. It is daunting because he or she cannot do it alone but requires engaged employees, an aligned leadership team, and supportive investors and/or owners. Stakeholders must be aligned, balanced, and inspired. A CEO is like a conductor who must ensure all the musicians are playing in harmony.
Each of these stakeholders has different motivations — shareholders and owners are focused on growth and return; the leadership team wants to feel that they have responsibility, authority, and an active strategic role; employees want to be treated fairly and provided with the tools and resources to excel, grow, and express their gifts. Each sees the company from their own perspective. The CEO is expected to see the whole picture and connect with all these constituents, meeting them where they are and inspiring them to see the big picture, as well.
Let us take the case of employees. The first order of business is to ensure that their basic requirements are met and that they have ample opportunities for professional growth and development. It helps for everyone to have a financial stake in the company such as profit sharing, stock options, and stock participation plans. These are good motivators but still are not enough to inspire them to give their very best. This requires working together toward a larger common purpose with shared values and core beliefs in a high-trust environment. The key words are common, shared, and trust! How do you develop that?
Most successful CEOs have the functional expertise, intellectual capacity, and dedicated work ethic. That is professional mastery. That’s what got them here, but it is simply not enough to inspire everyone to give their best to build a purposeful and profitable organization.
What is needed is a deeper understanding of human motivations and emotions and the ability to connect with employees at a visceral level, individually and collectively. It begins with self and the ability and capacity to go within. This is the domain of personal and organizational mastery.
Building an Enlightened Organization.
Any business today is capable of leading the way in its marketplace by relying on the key principle of right action. Doing so will support the essentials of enlightened leadership and a powerful integration of work and life!
One narrative we hear is that business is about selfishness and greed and elevates a few at the expense of many. Therefore, we should apply regulatory controls to limit growth and concentration of power. The other narrative is that we are fine the way we are, and there is nothing wrong with the way we are managing our business and economy. Hence, we should continue with our short-term shareholder-centric, unbridled capitalistic model, and all will be fine. When we look at it objectively, both narratives are only partially right. Proponents of each narrative need to be willing to reach out and be open to the other perspective.
The truth or the solution is always somewhere in the middle—the middle way—or as I call it, the inclusive “and” — as opposed to the exclusive “either/or” approach.
The inclusive “somewhere in the middle” approach tends to be at work in many areas of life — in the broader human struggle between right and left, strategy and tactics, planning and action, purpose and profit, principles and performance, short-term and long-term, inward and outward. It’s yin and yang. The answer is simple but not easy. You often have to transcend and include what at first appears to be opposing concepts in order to find a balance that leads to success. That’s where the pathway to greatness, excellence, and fulfillment lies.
In a way, everyone has the same struggle as individuals and as leaders of business, political, or social organizations. Since we are all part of the same ecosystem, instead of blaming each other we should go inward and get our houses in order. You have to be the change you wish to see. You cannot be a part of the solution unless you embrace the problem and acknowledge your role in creating it—whatever “it” may be.
In life and organizational leadership, how did we contribute to “the problem”?
At a recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, global leaders recognized that businesses serve a higher purpose beyond profit. I call it an evolved conscious leadership, and that’s the key to leadership mastery.
A conscious, enlightened business organization is one that I call 3.0 — self-actualized. For example, a transformative organization in 1.0 state offers a steady and stable environment with lifetime, or at least long- time, employment. In a 3.0 state, the benchmark is higher — a high-trust and high-performance environment with purposeful growth.