John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, Foreword by Bill George. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013.
This essay/review is primarily US-centric and my irresistible attraction to digging a little deeper into the lives of the authors, as well as exploring their work. I have labeled this section as a preface because it is truly material that I am offering before reading the book. I believe this is a reasonable approach, since my familiarity over the years with Mackey’s career, politics and business positions hyave been expanded by his more recent activities through the Conscious Capitalism/Conscious Business initiatives and his support for the work of Don Beck and the writings of Marc Gafni. Thus, he is a highly placed CEO of a highly successful company who, we have reason to believe, has a grasp of integral and adult development theory and application. While I am initially going to focus on the authors, the discussion of this book should not be construed as an argumentum ad hominem. I just want to contextualize what is likely a strong argument for a new paradigm of business.
I became acutely aware of Whole Foods’ expansion when I was living in Pacific Grove, California. A few blocks from my house was a wonderful grocery story stocked from floor to ceiling with organic produce and other health food products. It was a neighborhood store for me, but people came from all over the Monterey Peninsula to shop there.
And then it was closed! Whole Foods was opening a new store in the largest shopping mall on the Peninsula and had bought out the neighborhood store. The owner of the small grocery store had been hired to manage the new and more elaborate grocery outlet. It was with some sadness at the loss of my neighborhood store and some joy that I embraced the Whole Food store in Monterey. And some surprise! The prices were higher than I had been paying for the same or comparable products. But it was in the name of healthy eating and ecology that I was willing to spend my limited income on fresh and prepared products, as well.
It was at this time that I began to pick up rumors that all was not right in this Green retail business. An article appeared in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html?_r=0
For seven years, Mr. Mackey had an online alter ego. Using the pseudonym Rahodeb — a variation of Deborah, his wife’s name — Mr. Mackey typed out more than 1,100 entries on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board over a seven-year period, championing his company’s stock and occasionally blasting a rival, Wild Oats Markets. The story was first disclosed on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site last night.
Responding to a posting on March 28, 2006, Rahodeb wrote: ‘OATS has lost their way and no longer has a sense of mission or even a well-thought-out theory of the business. They lack a viable business model that they can replicate. They are floundering around hoping to find a viable strategy that may stop their erosion. Problem is that they lack the time and the capital now.’
Insiders seemed to know who the author was. But not everyone:
Mr. Mackey’s alias surfaced in a footnote in a 40-page court document filed on June 6 by lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission, which is trying to block Whole Foods’ acquisition of Wild Oats on the ground that it would limit competition among natural and organic groceries.
Whole Foods announced in February that it planned to buy its smaller rival for $565 million. Mr. Mackey posted a response on his company’s Web site late Wednesday, acknowledging that he used the pseudonym “Rahodeb” on Yahoo financial bulletin boards from 1999 until last summer. He said the F.T.C. discovered his alias “through one of the millions of litigation documents that Whole Foods provided to them.
I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it,” he wrote. “I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.”
Mr. Mackey said the views expressed sometimes represented his beliefs. In other instances, he said, he offered different views from his own to play devil’s advocate. He said no proprietary information on Whole Foods was disclosed.
His purpose in doing this, it was charged, was to drive down the price of Wild Oats stock so that Whole Foods could acquire it at a lower price. Well, let us not belabor this. I am not proposing the casting of stones here. I bring this up because the ideas of his new book may contain relevant material. [In fact, Mackey does explain these events consistently with what has been stated above.]
However, note that in these stories it was reported that Mackey’s pay as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive was $1.00 a year. He was also identified as a vegan and a libertarian. Thus he has been represented as a role model for CEO pay in a business climate in which some CEOs are paid 300 times that received by their average wage earner. Forbes http://www.forbes.com/2006/04/20/john-mackey-pay_cx_hc_06ceo_0420wholefoods.html raised questions about this, however,
The Wall Street Journal, Slate.com, Harvard Business Review and BusinessWeek have all mentioned the pay cap, generally in favorable terms.
But they all omitted one thing: stock options. Last year, CEO John Mackey‘s salary and cash bonus equaled $436,000, almost exactly 14 times the average worker’s $32,000 salary. But he made $1.8 million exercising stock options, and received another $460,000 because of a company error that allowed stock options to expire unexercised. The grand total: $2.7 million. Another $4.4 million of options have vested, so he can exercise them if he wants.
…To be fair, Mackey isn’t some CEO scofflaw. Even with options, his pay is relatively low–especially considering the company’s soaring stock price. And the firm awards 93% of its stock options to ordinary workers.
Further background includes Mackey’s long-standing position as a Libertarian, albeit somewhat in a maverick role with other Libertarians. His most recent demonstration can be found under this headline from Ron Paul’s website http://www.dailypaul.com/270610/whole-foods-founder-john-mackey-likens-obamacare-to-fascism
Libertarian Whole Foods Founder John Mackey Likens ObamaCare to Fascism
Mackey claims he has become aware of his “public” status and needs to use caution when he expresses himself. However, in this NPR audio statement, which he has publicly withdrawn on CNN and elsewhere, he clearly put his foot in his mouth, perhaps due to his lack of sensitivity to history and culture.
As for global warming, http://www.humanevents.com/2013/01/26/whole-foods-ceo-john-mackey-global-warming-is-not-that-big-of-a-deal-video/ on this conservative website – and Mackey is clearly identified as a powerful conservative voice – is reported to have said that global warming is not that big of a deal and has helped humanity flourish. He is quoted as saying:
I haven’t been outspoken about global warming. I’ve been smeared quite a bit in the media about it – all of a sudden, I’m a climate change denier. I mean, climate change is obviously occurring. So – it’s gotten a little bit warmer. I guess my position on it is that I don’t think that’s that big a deal. Actually, humanity’s flourished usually when temperatures gradually warmed. And humans gradually adapt to it,” he told Off the Cuff.
As for regulation to reduce global warming, he said, “We can probably eliminate poverty on the planet earth in the next 50 years if we will just continue to follow the tenets of free enterprise capitalism to the greatest extent possible. So I just don’t want to see that change.”
In 2009 his critics called for a boycott of Whole Foods. http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/08/13/boycott-whole-foods/1 There no doubt have been similar calls since his labeling of ObamaCare as Fascism, a statement that he has retracted.
Thus, we have a picture of a man who has tempted the fates by taking curmudgeon-like positions on a variety of topics, challenged those politically allied with him, tested the boundaries of his ethics, lived his life as a vegan, and the like. He still slaughters animals in the name of his capitalist business, but humanely. We find this a contradiction that no vegan worthy of the name can support – and I must disclose that I am a vegan.
In preparation for this review I entered a Whole Foods market in Tucson, Arizona. I had not set foot into Whole Foods for years for a number of reasons, not the least of which is despite his “enlightened” personnel practices, he has also been charged with union busting anywhere in his empire where it might arise. Thus, I reveal another of my biases, that is, that working class people need protection in collective bargaining and the right to strike without being replaced by scams or being fired from their jobs. Accounts in Mother Jones and elsewhere paint Whole Foods under Mackey’s leadership as a union busting company that practices policies that are sometimes outside the requirements of the law and that are oppressive to labor. In my humble opinion, Mackey’s labor policies are about power and control over the wealth created by his business. So this is one of the biases I bring to the review of this book.
As I wandered through the aisles of Mackey’s market I saw many wheat gluten and soy-based products designed to replace those derived from animal products. Most of these products can be found in a cluster of other stores in Tucson, often at lower prices. We have found them in the Food Conspiracy Food Coop, Sprouts, New Life (smaller chains) and Aqua Vita (an independent). Thus, to get the same range of products we might have to go to four different stores – neither efficient nor ecologically harmonious. And, admittedly, Whole Foods had some products we could only find online at lower prices. Nevertheless, I appreciate Mackey’s advocacy and modeling of veganism for the middle class and the wealthy. He has found a way to practice a personal vegan way of life while using his talents to provide food to customers of many food persuasions.
In 2006 I received (I don’t recall how) a presentation that I believe Mackey did that builds on an elaborate account of the stages of Spiral Dynamics to discuss Whole Foods Market. Unfortunately, I have lost the source.
Now, how is Spiral Dynamics relevant to Whole Foods Market? Spiral Dynamics is a useful model to understand one’s personal values and one’s current level/wave of consciousness. Spiral Dynamics is also a useful model to better understand what is happening in the world today. In addition, Spiral Dynamics is a useful model for understanding organizations and businesses. Why are we different than most other corporations in the world? Most corporations in the United States are rooted firmly in the Orange vMEME; a few are in the Green vMEME, as are many non-profits. There are very few Second Tier (Integral) corporations. I believe Whole Foods Market is a Yellow, Integral organization. Finally, Spiral Dynamics is a useful model to understand the evolution of our agricultural system over the past 100,000+ years and where it is headed.
Here we have a statement that aligns integrally-informed folk with how Mackey sees the world. He is drawing on a framework that has already played an important role in moderating the either/or, left-right, and other dichotomous approaches to politics and change. As I prepare to read Mackey and Sisodia’s new book, I will be looking for the connections, not only with Spiral Dynamics, but other frameworks and perspectives that offer potential for the world to move in more generative directions.
And what of Dr. Rajendra Sisodia? He is described on the dust jacket of the book as “cofounder and trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and professor of marketing at Bentley University. He has authored seven books, including Firms of Endearment.” His background is in marketing. Says Amazon.com, “he was cited as one of ‘50 Leading Marketing Thinkers’ and named to the ‘Guru Gallery’ by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.” All of his other books are focused on marketing.
At http://diederich.marquette.edu/COC/ccom-sisodia.aspx one can download a PowerPoint presentation done by Sisodia on conscious capitalism. He has also placed a conscious capitalism video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EnjUrG2wOY. For more on his perspectives on marketing, this interview is based on his Firms of Endearment book: http://www.firmsofendearment.com/about/pdf/Interview%20with%20Raj%20Sisodia.pdf
I wanted to find material beyond these more recent representations of his views and beyond these marketing pieces and learn more about this co-author. At http://www.lokvani.com/lokvani/article.php?article_id=8875 I found a brief interview in this India-oriented online publication. There he states, “I am also part of a similar group in India called Chittasangha, or The Consciousness Collaborative. I also support Pratham, which offers educational programs for under-privileged kids in India. My hobbies include music (old Hindi songs), writing and photography.” Being an Indiawala of sorts, myself, I was delighted that he, like many of my friends in the India Diaspora, maintains his connections to India and gives back to the people in his country of origin.
The Sisdodias were Rajput rulers of large areas in north central and western India in the states of Rajasthan, Harayana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The clan claims that they descended from Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. The point of interest here is only that Raj Sisodia has come from a historically privileged clan. Nothing more can be attached to that, because we just don’t know the details of his life beyond: “An electrical engineer from BITS, Pilani (India), Dr. Sisodia has an MBA in Marketing from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Bombay, and a Ph. D. in Marketing & Business Policy from Columbia University, where he was the Booz Allen Hamilton Fellow.“ http://diederich.marquette.edu/COC/ccom-sisodia.aspx
According to the Bentley Vanguard, a student newspaper at Bentley University (near Cambridge, Massachusetts), after 15 years teaching at Bentley:
Sisodia recently accepted a position at Babson College, seeking to further develop and expand the idea of Conscious Capitalism at an institution internationally recognized for entrepreneurship. His position will be the Franklin W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Businesses and the Whole Foods Market Research Scholar for Conscious Capitalism. http://bentleyvanguard.com/2013/04/09/conscious-capitalism-takes-off/
It turns out that Olin was the founder of a blasting powder company and later brass making for manufacturing cartridge shells. He also purchased the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Thus, he was a major arms manufacturer and built his wealth by supplying ammunition and weapons from the Spanish-American War through World War II when he retired.
Interesting! It appears Mackey has arranged funding for Sisodia’s new academic position. Sisodia is also, along with John Mackey, on the faculty of the Academy for Conscious Leadership. http://academyforconsciousleadership.com/who-we-are/raj-sisodia/. This, too, is a Whole Foods enterprise:
Academy for Conscious Leadership Mission Statement
The Academy for Conscious Leadership prepares leaders to lead from a place of service by guiding them through experiences that identify their higher purpose and create cultures of meaning.
To do this, a faculty comprised of Whole Foods Market Team Members, thought leaders and fellow travelers exposes participants to ideas that challenge their perspectives, allowing them to consider a new reality.
In addition to adhering to the tenets of Conscious Capitalism, the Academy embraces the following behaviors:
• We model compassion, empathy and understanding.
• We recognize the value in different kinds of minds.
• We challenge our perceptions.
• We encourage leaders to understand their own reactions, desires, motivations
as well as those of others.
• We believe in the wholeness of all things and face our shadows along with our light.
• We model humility and recognize that we always have more to learn.
• We are creative in our methods and explore new ideas.
• We practice gratitude.
The world is ready for a new crop of intentional leaders, and through the Academy we will help them to flourish while enriching a vibrant and entrepreneurial culture. http://academyforconsciousleadership.com/our-mission/
On his website, Sisodia includes a series of “personal writings” with titles like “A Window on Wodehouse.” “Letter from Suburbia,” “The Cranky Tourists,” and “The Miss India-Singapore Pageant.” I will leave it to the reader to tap into these dimensions of Raj Sisodia. http://rajsisodia.com/raj/personal-writings/, The Wodehouse piece is a wonderful homage to the author’s humor and mastery of the language. Following a biographical essay and paean to Wodehouse’s character and talent, Sisodia includes a series of comments and excerpts from several of Wodehouse’s works – well presented and entertaining, I might add.
I couldn’t resist checking out his comments on the Miss India-Singapore pageant, the likes of which he was drawn to on one occasion:
Since we Indians have now taken over the Universe (can you imagine a ‘Ms. Belgium-Argentina Pageant’?), a series of twenty ‘Miss India-whatever Pageants’ are held around the world each year. At the end of that grueling process, a ‘Miss India-Universe Pageant’ is held in New York City (where else?), after which the newly crowned beauty queen is pretty much ignored by the rest of the world for the rest of her life. http://rajsisodia.com/raj/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/The-Miss-India-Singapore-Pageant.pdf
The remainder is delightful and amusing reflections on contemporary Indian culture, dominated by references to people in relation to their regions (Punjabi or Tamil), and a perspective on the Indian Diaspora in Singapore that the conservative Tamil’s would find insulting.
So what does all of this mean? Essentially that Sisodia and Mackey are working closely together, as would be expected of co-authors, in several institutions and across business/academic boundaries. Exploring this material as an introduction to the book review was interesting for me, and I hope for you. There is certainly more to discover about both men, no doubt. And the value of the book cannot be based on ad hominem arguments. Nevertheless, particularly in the case of Mackey, how he has been managing his business, not just from a bottom line perspective, must be considered in relation to the credibility of his presentation.
One thing is clear about the focus of their work: they believe that capitalism is the best system and conscious capitalism is the best approach to capitalism, because without consciousness the current capitalist system is unsustainable. Politically, they are taking a conscious libertarian approach. Cognitively, they (and others) are seeking a more integrated, developmental perspective in and out of business. One reviewer of the book complained about Mackey’s negativity about “Big Pharm” and his herbal supplement (and vegan) approach to life. But these may also be things many of us would readily align with him. Now it is time to take a look at the book and see what comes up.
Any book by so noted an author as John Mackey on the subject of business is likely to gather a lot of attention from the media. And so this has. Let’s take a look at how the book has been received. For example, Alan Murray in the Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324235104578243673073627726.html points out Mackey’s counter culture roots, references the 2007 FTC incident and then states,
What is refreshing about the Mackey-Sisodia take is that they aren’t advocating some bolt-on solution to the capitalist model. Rather they argue that the mathematical framework of free-market economics—developed by neoclassical economists in the 20th century—fundamentally mischaracterizes the true nature of capitalism.
Murray, a former deputy managing editor of WSJ thinks the book is overly optimistic about the possibilities of conscious capitalism and that it fails to point out the failures of such approaches, e.g. Pepsi’s CEO Nooyi’s efforts to focus on health foods is causing the company’s position in the “sugar-water war” to stagger. He concludes, however, that such efforts as these can’t be all bad.
Christine Bader, writing in the Huffington Post’s blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-bader/whole-foods-conscious-capitalism_b_2551489.html reflects a more liberal position on the book, criticizing it for “over-the-top adulation of the private sector” that produces few deep insights. Rather, it is difficult to swallow the idea that business is “fundamentally good and ethical” or “inherently virtuous.” She goes on to say that the book ignores the complexities of the real world, despite some welcome examples of conscious business provided in the book – and additional ones from Whole Foods not mentioned.
For something different, check out http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/03/john-mackey-better-business where John Mackey is interviewed by Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief for The Economist.
Forbes’ Steve Denning, author of Radical Management, states, http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/01/05/the-new-management-paradigm-john-mackeys-whole-foods/
The book is a hymn of praise to the emerging new paradigm of management as well as a guide on how to implement it. The book isn’t just talking about a few management techniques or tools. It’s presenting a different way of thinking and speaking and acting in the workplace.
[I think this is a critical point about the book.]
He indicates that this approach s not the only one and lists many other authors on this path, “including Alan W. Brown, John Seely Brown, Rod Collins, Bill George, Ranjay Gulati, John Hagel, Gary Hamel, Umair Haque, Vlatka Hlupic, Roger Martin, Lisa Earle McLeod, Vineet Nayar, Franz Roeoesli, Fred Reichheld and Jeff Sutherland.”
He then goes on to a financial analysis of the companies referenced in the book and shows that the ten-year share price of most are doing significantly better than the S&P 500. He continues,
The book is nevertheless a welcome addition to the growing literature on the new management paradigm. It is particularly strong on:
- A brilliant exposition of the values and thought-patterns of the new management paradigm.
- A devastating critique of the current dominant management paradigm.
- New insights on how to weave all the stakeholders, the community and the environment into the management of a firm that still makes a lot of money.
- How the new paradigm differs from mere tweaks or facelifts to the current paradigm, such as corporate and social responsibility or Michael Porter’s shared value.
Denning is generally supportive of the content of the book and offers considerable approval. He does have a few “quibbles:”
Who is the most important stakeholder? The book rightly values all stakeholders and argues that if the firm does the right thing by all stakeholders, the customer will like it. In recent years, this assumption has worked out for Whole Foods, since Mackey’s passion for better food happens to coincide with a growing interest in the marketplace in the US for better food. But it’s a matter of fact in each case. In many other fields, customers are not so enlightened. In the end, the customer is the primary stakeholder. As Peter Drucker enunciated back in 1973, the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer.
How do you measure progress in a firm practicing conscious capitalism on a daily basis? The idea that if the firm has the right values, everything will work out for the best is a view born more of hope than experience. The insights of Fred Reichheld on the net promoter system could have helped here.
Agile and Scrum: How do you focus the work of teams on adding value rather than making money? Giving them P&L responsibilities runs significant risks. The discoveries of Agile and Scrum would help here.
A tendency to over-statement. Not all the firms cited as practitioners of conscious capitalism actually implement the principles of conscious capitalism all the time. For instance, is Disney’s current purpose: “To use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions”? That might once have been a goal of Walt Disney the individual, but it hardly reflects the goal or practices of the global conglomerate that is Disney today.
The history of shareholder value: The book tends to overlook the fact that the current single-minded obsession with shareholder value is largely a phenomenon of the last four decades, not something that has characterized business for centuries. In the overall scheme of things, the total focus on money and short-term profits is quite recent. To some extent, we don’t need to reinvent the future. We can recover from a relatively brief period of collective dementia by rediscovering values that we always had, but somehow forgot.
These are issues I certainly would not have come up with, so they are worth including here. However, I would point out that I fully support the shift from shareholder focus to stakeholder focus in how we think about understanding and working with human systems. Furthermore, the importance of “customer” is clear, but the definition of customer can vary. It is not just an individual or institutional consumer of products and services, but those who are served or mis-served by the activities of the company. It is fair to say that customer can refer to the planet.
So, we can see, at least from the “mainstream” examples, responses to the book have been both positive and skeptical. The skepticism largely comes from the perspective that the history of capitalism and of business seems to suggests that, while a few individuals in their roles as entrepreneurs and in leading corporations may be instrumental in designing and shaping the kinds of businesses Mackey and Sisodia write about, largely that is not going to happen in the world as we know it.
I will conclude with some observations about what I found to be interesting and valuable about the book. Bill George (Authentic Leadership, True North), former CEO of Medtronics and current faculty member at the Harvard Business School, provides us with a very supportive Foreword that essentially supports the book and underlines the message of “getting capitalism back on track.” I am not sure capitalism has ever been on track, other than in the amassing of wealth for a few. One might argue that social gains are a means to that end, but let’s not deny that while human systems and individual progress have evolved we must be concerned with past and current costs, as well as the future dues to be paid. Oligarchy is no substitute for democracy and the cronyism of today is not a new thing produced by oligarchy. They go together.
Still, Bill George is calling for change while arguing that “leadership matters.” I agree that it does, but I wonder to what extent the leadership envisioned by capitalists is rooted in a heroic and oligarchic view. Such a perspective underlies the global creep toward political and economic domination by a few. Those who see themselves as constituting what is important about leadership may be leading stakeholders down a path of oppression. In arguing, as Mackey does, against a significant role of government in preventing such oligarchic domination, these authors seem to be viewing human systems and beings through that oligarchic lens.
To be fair, George argues against cronyism as a form of unsustainable capitalism. His and the authors’ approach to capitalism as winning for all stakeholders is an important step forward. It is an extension of the notion of purpose and mission that is informed by stakeholder interests and needs. It is also a move from the single to multiple bottom line aspirations and assessments of business performance. George states:
I am deeply grateful to John Mackey and Raj Sisodia for giving business and society this invaluable treatise on how to integrate all the company’s constituencies for the long term benefit of creating sustainable organizations that serve society’s interests simultaneously with their own.
A key theme in the book, as in much of Mackey’s public stances is to reduce regulation and government involvement in the public sector:
When it comes to business, the government’s responsibility is to be an impartial umpire to create a system of just property rights, to make sure that businesses follow the rules and apply them fairly to ensure a level playing field.
The authors would have us support such regulation but do away with the nuisance regulations. They cite, in particular, those that “protect existing business interests and discourage entrepreneurship.” They cite the costs of regulation, but do not cite the costs of deregulation. They are concerned that too much of the burden and costs falls on small businesses.
Exactly which regulations or government involvement is not clear. The results is an impression of a “hidden hand” stance that leads the reader to conclude that our economic and social salvation lies in trusting business to do the right thing. Under crony capitalism that clearly has not worked. Under conscious capitalism it might work. But wouldn’t it require a consciousness transformation among the owners of capital, as well as those who sought their share?
The issue is not regulation or no regulation. The issue is what regulations are important to the stakeholders, not just of businesses, but the society as a whole. Here is where we find the complex challenge of politics and government – to integrate these interests into law and to enforce those laws. Can we count on rising consciousness to better promote that end, than has happened historically in all societies?
Of interest to this publication is the notion of leadership proposed. It is, of course, conscious leadership. “Conscious leadership is perhaps the most important element in Conscious Capitalism.” Their notion of the conscious leader is the hero, the individual standing above others in courage, strength and integrity. They are trustees, paternal leaders protecting the rest. They are “missionary leaders.” Increasingly feminine values of caring, compassion, cooperation and more right-brain qualities” are being integrated with heroic qualities.
A key point with which I totally agree: “leadership and management are not synonymous.” They reason, managers attend to efficiencies, while “leaders are the high-level architects, builders and remodelers of the system.” Businesses need both and they need to be “in harmony.” This represents one view of conflict that suggests that conflict is not beneficial for the system. In fact, in complex human systems we are continuously bringing together diversity and divergent perspectives. Innovation, creativity and integration require such conflict. It also invites the use of power, position and money to manage the conflict. I suspect the authors would agree that what is needed is a more thorough comprehension of stakeholder values and worldviews, ways to leverage diversity for positive gains for all, and ways of attending to differences without oppressing them.
Leaders, according to the authors, must be highly developed along all lines, particularly, “analytical, emotional, spiritual, and systems intelligence.” These are essential to servant leadership. As servants they promote a shared purpose, help people grow and evolve and make touch moral choices, The authors add:
Leadership in the third millennium must be based on the power of purpose, love, caring, and compassion. Conscious leadership is fully human leadership; it integrates the masculine and feminine, the heart and the mind, the spirit and the soul. It integrates Western systems and efficiency with Eastern wisdom and effectiveness.
To become a conscious leader, attend to ongoing learning, physical health and the other lines of development.
Theirs is an ambitious canvas that they set before us. It calls for individual and collective transformation. They quote Marc Gafni:
We must change the core narrative of business to make it an accurate reflection of the transformative impact of business, its true identity as the great healer… This is a huge and dramatic paradigm shift that can actually shift the very source code of our self-understanding.
I like Gafni’s work. I find it liberating and hopeful.
When it comes to the kinds of changes this book envisions I find it difficult not to be pessimistic. Treating these themes in terms of the past would be doing the work a disservice. Yet, I find it difficult to let go of the feeling that the approaches and thinking represented by this work is still grounded in the heroic and the paternalistic (despite the bow to feminism and feminine values).
The behaviors, practices, programs and activities of our pasts as stakeholders in business will impact how we move forward. Ultimately, we are being challenged to transcend and include the past and engage in an individual and collective development process that seems overwhelming. Will a critical mass be able to achieve the kinds of transformations that Mackey and Sisodia are calling for? Some of us may be around long enough to see.
Certainly, we have examples of positive steps in the right direction in particular social interventions or business operations. Here’s to the New Renaissance.