3 qualities of great leaders who embody social purpose: Leadership AND Corporate Citizenship

Can corporate citizenship be left to the Corporate Social Responsibility Division? How does Corporate Citizenship fit with leadership? To find  out I interviewed Jill Rose, the London based Global Director for Corporate Citizenship with an international consulting firm.

Jill argues passionately that ‘Leadership and the idea of corporate citizenship, social purpose and sustainability just can’t be separated in this day and age’.

Corporate citizenship is the contract between business and society. It’s the area of leadership around the purpose of an organization, beyond the purely commercial.

Jill suggests that the qualities of great leaders who embody this include:

1)    Balancing the short term and long term goals of the company. ‘And let’s not be naïve – you don’t have a company if you don’t produce short-term profit.’ She refers to the CEO of Unilever who controversially told shareholders ‘If you buy into this long-term value-creation model, which is equitable, which is shared, which is sustainable, then come and invest with us. If you don’t buy into this, I respect you as a human being, but don’t put your money in our company.’

2)    Innovation. Seeing society and our wider issues as a source of innovation and a way of evolving. This encompasses and understanding that the future will not be dictated by today’s commerciality but something much wider.

Jill offers GE’s ‘ecomagination’ program is an example – innovating to create products that respond today’s issues and problems as well as tomorrow’s.

3)    Willingness and ability to form coalitions and alliances with other organizations in what may be unfamiliar ways. Alliances could be across different sectors, working more closely with a non-profit organization or with government, or even with your competitors.

There are increasing number s of companies who take a ‘collaborate-and-compete’ such as in the sportswear industry. Adidas, NIKE and Puma have formed a coalition working towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in the supply chain. They work together to resolve this commercial issue for all of them, and at the same time they continue to compete.

Jill maintains that leadership AND corporate citizenship are completely intertwined. The leader who is able to see that and navigate through those complexities is one who will succeed in the long term AND one who is also a successful corporate citizen.

What could you do to bring more of these three qualities into your leadership?

Have an Extraordinary Day
Corrinne