What will they need to do?
Predicting the future is risky; nonetheless the following trends offer some clues.
Financial and Social Profit
Many global business leaders know that delivering for society also delivers for the business. Some consider this cynical. Others see it as liberating. Most people much prefer to work in a business, or buy from one that makes a profit and helps others.
How does it work?
Take Facebook’s plans to work with the Indian government to connect people in remote villages to the internet. Connecting these communities opens up economic and social benefits for inhabitants. For Facebook, and for its commercial partners, it offers exponential growth. Zuckerberg comments that India has 243 million internet users and 100 million Facebook users, but there are over a billion people who don’t have access to the net.
Why does it matter?
While delivering for society works for global players like Facebook, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Unilever; why might it matter to other businesses?
Here are 3 commercial reasons:
Cross Sector Partnerships
Facebook offers one example of cross business, cross cultural, cross sector partnerships. Many more global companies like Coca Cola, Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered Bank, and IBM partner with government and NGOs to deliver innovative solutions to address global social problems that affect people nationally and locally.
What global companies do now at national and international levels is spreading. Increasingly, other companies and NGOs are partnering with government to deliver local solutions.
In addition to commercial skills, leaders will need PQ capability.
PQ – political intelligence is the ability to work with others to shape a future that benefits society. It has five dimensions.
Future oriented: visionary and pragmatic. The ability to imagine what society might want in future and build a diverse team, of partners and stakeholders with the capacity to deliver it. There is a Japanese proverb which says ‘Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.’ Conceptual ability matters as much as strong project management and analytical skills.
Powerful: it’s easy when you’re the boss to make things happen. A snap of the fingers… well almost… and things get done. Working with partners and multiple stakeholders, the emphasis is on engaging others to buy into a common vision and deliver a practical outcome. Our interdependent world has multiple stakeholders. Having broad networks (cross sector, cross cultural) enables leaders to influence stakeholders directly and indirectly through others. Competing stakeholder interests demand skilful handling. Understanding the complexity and explaining it in simple terms helps others choose between short term gains and long term benefits.
Empathy with purpose: successful partnerships rely on strong relationships and a shared passion for achieving a common vision. The best business leaders will become global citizens who have an empathy with society and can make balanced choices between profit and creating a better future for all.
Trusted: only 1 in 5 people (Edelman Trust Barometer 2014) trust business leaders to tell the truth and make ethical and moral decisions. Putting integrity at the heart of a business and sticking with it, even when not convenient, builds trust with consumers and partners.
Versatile: complex relationships demand flexible thought and behaviour. Leaders will need to know - when to push and when to concede, when to empathise and when to rationalise; and understand - when managing a relationship trumps the task, and when focus on the outcome matters more.