“Responsible Leadership is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it.” (P. Drucker)

by Didier Marlier on Friday June 22nd, 2018

This post is not about football (although it is where the action takes place), but about behaviours, values and our ultimate responsibility as Business Leaders: educating our people!

Who hasn’t seen the exemplary images of the Senegalese and Japanese fans, showing respect for their colours and Russian hosts, by cleaning the stadium after the game won by their national team at the recent World Cup?

In 2015, I was invited to speak to the 500 top leaders of a multinational. My intervention was about Education, Business Ethics, Values and their financial impact on the bottom line. I chose to illustrate this by a rapid study which showed that, in Europe, the countries who best got through the 2008 crisis, sometimes after a dramatic fall such as Iceland, were also those with the lowest corruption rates and highest sense of social responsibility (civical sense). Equally interesting, the PISA report (a Worldwide ranking of the countries offering the best level of studies in their public schools) of that year confirmed my “intuition”: Countries such as Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark or Norway were into the top 25. But the latest may have been more of a correlation than a causality link.

Seeking to understand what drove the Senegalese fans to behave in such an exemplary manner (the Japanese people having already demonstrated such a high level of social responsibility 4 years ago in the Brazilian World Cup), I asked a friend there to investigate for me. It appeared that they are part of the famous Fan-Club of the “12ème Gaïndé”. Those supporters are different from many othersthrough:

  • Logos: The 12th of Gaïndé members consider that each game played by their national team is a unique opportunity to tell the World about their formidable cultures of their country.
  • Ethos: The fans commit to follow a strong discipline and be sent home immediately, if betraying it. “Behaviours are part of their brand” as ex-IMD Leadership Professor, C. Parker used to say.
  • Pathos: The members feel nothing less than being entrusted by their whole nation, to be the cultural and “good behavior Ambassadors” of their Nation.

Peter Drucker, one of the most important Business writer in History, was from the opinion that it is also the duty of business to educate their people so that they, in turn provide the right example to their children.

I remember a Brazilian bank who had decided to cut their loan to logging firms which were not respecting sustainability principles. Good decision at first sight. But, when the CEO understood the complaints of local remote communities, terrified to have lost the companies that were funding their schools, dispensaries and were providing jobs, he chose to educate instead of punish. He offered to restore the loans at the condition that those illegal loggers accepted to go for the sustainability certification.

I never forget that, the mythical founder of The Body Shop, was convinced that the purpose of business was also to educate. She remains famous for having ordered her brand’s delivery trucks back when Mrs Thatcher had decided to severely cut the education budget. The following day, all Body Shops delivery trucks and vans were displaying the slogan “If you find Education expensive, try Ignorance!”

I borrowed the title of this article to Peter Drucker and took the freedom to change the word Management (which I see as maintaining the status quo, leading when I know) into Leadership (going the extra-mile, leading even when I don’t know).

Could it be that dedicating your time, energy, intelligence and the largest part of your life to an organization which considers that one of its prime missions is to educate people in the countries they operate is more engaging than increasing shareholders’ value?

Enjoy your Educator/Leader Journey!

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