Over the last decade, we have seen many books on new leadership and purpose for life and work. Often, titles begin with “re-“: reinventing organizations, reimagining capitalism, reenchanting the cosmos. The chosen titles illustrate the depth of the transformation in which we find ourselves. We need to reinvent how we do business, organize, work, live, love, consume, relate and dream. Why? Because we are experiencing a massive systemic crisis. We are confronted with colossal environmental degradation, climate change, growing economic inequality, the collapse of our institutional framework, political polarization, and social fragmentation.
Businesses lead the way
As governments are slow to fix it and fail to provide guidance and sustainable solutions, we need businesses to jump in and address our most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges. As Harvard professor Rebecca Henderson stresses: “it is going to be hard to make money if the major coastal cities are underwater, half the population is underemployed or working at jobs that pay less than a living wage, and democratic government has been replaced by populist oligarchs who run the world for their own benefit.”
Awareness about our unprecedented challenges is rising. More and more companies step up their efforts to contribute to lasting change. The Business Roundtable, an organization representing America’s 181 most influential CEOs, issued a press release in August 2019 stating that businesses should benefit all their stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders. A seemingly radical shift away from the still-dominant economic perspective of creating shareholder value is an organization’s only moral duty.
Trust and The Great Resignation
But it is only a beginning. Although corporate purpose and value statements mostly align with stakeholder theory and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, most stakeholders experience reality to conflict with the well-drafted corporate statements. To illustrate that contrast, one only needs to point to the recent trend of “The Great Resignation” in the US: employees massively quit their jobs for better opportunities. In Europe, we see a similar trend. A recent survey showed that people leave because they do not feel valued by their organizations and managers and don’t feel a sense of belonging. Trust levels in business and government were already low, and the pandemic has only deepened the gap. Many sustainability goals of organizations are seen as greenwashing rather than serious attempts to make a real contribution. And worse, researchers found that many corporate value statements share more than just semantic similarity; they seemed copied. Many organizations only pay lip service to change.
Still, it is a beginning. A growing number of organizations do take up the challenges of our times. They introduce and experiment with alternative governance models and promote self-organization from agile to holacracy. Some redefine their corporate objectives following stakeholder theory and put purpose over profit. These organizations make a serious effort to contribute to sustainability for their clients, employees, shareholders, society, and the environment. Others reserve a central role for employee well-being, explore self-determination through autonomy and psychological safety, and create a culture of self-development, learning, and meaningfulness. And of course, in answer to the Covid-19 pandemic, experiment with alternative ways of working and relating to support their employees to find ways of coping with the challenges of working from home.
Inspiration from Smart Companies
At Smartcom Summit we aim to support these new ways of leadership in working and organizing. We want to learn about successful leadership models from entrepreneurs, directors, board members, scholars and thought leaders. We will showcase inspiring examples and share the learnings of entrepreneurs who dare to do things differently. We will do this through our panel discussions, interviews and videos. Additionally, this year we will publish short articles on leadership and social development and address the psychological impact on motivation, well-being, and engagement.
Also, we have the ambition to research organizations exploring alternative ways to provide you with data. The data should support the argument that being good and doing well makes a good business case and balances employee well-being and work engagement. Lastly, this Summer we plan to organize a seminar to bring the most inspiring stories together on a day filled with learning, inspiration, and challenge. In combination with a solid and well-lived purpose, new leadership contributes to making this world a better place for current and future generations.
A small taste of subjects we will cover over the year:
- The role of an organizational purpose in strengthening engagement and decreasing turnover;
- How to embed your purpose in the day-to-day work environment;
- Building a robust motivational environment through satisfying the ABC of basic psychological needs (Autonomy, Belonging and Competence);
- Sustainable success with approaches such as holacracy, sociocracy, and the like;
- Lessons in remote leadership and WFH (Working from Home).
We have formed a small core team to support this endeavor, starting with:
- Dr. Lars van Tuin, expert in leadership and the psychology of motivation, coaching, and leadership development;
- Drs. Alice Stäbler, The Leadership Advisory, supervisory board-member, director, and coach to senior leadership.
With some more expected to join shortly. We hope to welcome you to our sessions and hope to inspire you and seduce you to look at adaptive forms of leadership with fresh eyes, and hopefully make some improvements in your own work and life.
About the author
Lars van Tuin
Lars van Tuin, Ph.D., is a seasoned business psychologist, bringing 20 years of experience in coaching leaders of private and public organizations in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. Increasing organizational agility and facilitating personal growth are at the core of his work.
His academic research and publications are on the psychology of leadership and motivation. His specific interest is in balancing governance with psychological well-being. How can a company be well-run and organized, serve a higher purpose, and benefit employee well-being and other stakeholders.