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LEADERSHIP IS A PROCESS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE, WHICH MAXIMISES THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SHARED GOAL.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
It's hard to find many bright spots in the increasingly gloomy economy, but they're out there.
Among big companies, IBM and Procter & Gamble are bright spots. IBM's earnings have beaten forecasts; P&G has a robust business and has already integrated its huge Gillette acquisition relatively seamlessly. Why are these and select other companies faring well today? Because they made important changes well before the recession hit full force. This includes, for these two companies, a re-emphasis on values and ethics. This downturn's survivors will be the role models for a new kind of business practice that is more socially responsible, not as an add-on or after-thought but as a first thought at the core of its business operations.
Seeking role models - not just benchmarks - is one way to find an upside in the downturn. It's counterintuitive, because downward spirals or losing streaks tend to push people and companies to withdraw and become insular - like individual depression that might cause people to stay in bed rather than face the world. With a little extra time, or as a pause between bouts of hard work, we can look at positive models, current or historical, to find inspiration.
A time of cynicism and mistrust can be made brighter by focusing on heroes. And because every story of success is also a story about persistence despite obstacles, the lessons can be applied to one's own situation, as a source of inspiration and practical tips. One of the things that most heroes, both top leaders and individuals, have in common is their feeling of obligation to leave a positive mark on the world. They do not stop feeling it just because the going suddenly got tough. This stimulates their creativity, produces innovations that turn out to be valuable in downturns, and motivates effort, no matter what. Their work matters. Think about how Nelson Mandela survived twenty seven years in prison before emerging to become South Africa's first democratically elected president. He never forgot that he was the leader of a movement, and that others depended on him.
The way companies like IBM and P&G emphasise their social mission and get real work done can help build the foundations for a stronger economy.