Think on These Things

Great leaders are morally discerning in their focus and ethically responsible in their use of leverage. Consider three enduring concepts and points of leverage with a renewed following in today’s economy—albeit with catchier names: (1) social benefit, (2) empowered talent, and (3) enabling technologies (the last, a seemingly hackneyed yet enduringly important phrase). An honest effort around any one of these still returns multiples in performance lift. An honest effort around all three returns exponential results.

The danger lies in deception. Little can be as disheartening, demotivating, and damaging to a competent workforce as important undertakings given lip service.

Social benefit matters. It is the total benefit to society of producing and consuming an output. Enlightened workers appreciate the ability to make a difference. Make it real, and they’ll support your mission with unimagined intensity.

Empowered talent matters. It is engaged workers doing what they were made to do, with flow-like passion and competence. Enlightened workers appreciate the opportunity to exercise, stretch, and strengthen their competencies. Make it real, and they’ll deliver unimaginable breakthroughs.

Enabling technologies matter—and for reasons far beyond such novel and well-intended phraseology as digital enablement and digital transformation. The point is not to consume ourselves in making existing tasks easier or making some user interface the Holy Grail of buyer-supplier connectivity. Rather, enabling technologies (which are transdisciplinary and extend beyond digital into nano, epigenetics, and more) can serve as an extension of our very being and coevolve to deliver revolutionary solutions to intractable challenges—solutions far beyond simplified tasks and clever platforms (though these, too, are good).

Rightly pursued, social benefit, empowered talent, and enabling technologies are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy means and ends. Great leaders think about such things because they feel morally and ethically accountable for their contributions and the contributions of those they lead.

An honest effort to create social benefit, empowered talent, and (where meaningful) radical, technologically enabled solutions lifts more than the bottom line: it raises individuals, organizations, and communities to new heights—and supports a better functioning society.

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