After viewing this story about Japan airlines CEO – http://www.boingboing.net/2011/02/25/japan-airlines-ceo-p.html – I sat back and asked myself – am I being a responsible CEO? What is my broader role as CEO?…in fact what is the role of small business in our society outside of generating profits, jobs and economic returns?…
Well, the first thing I realized is that money is definitely not the sole or even the primary driving force for me being CEO. It’s much more than that – it’s about influencing positive change and not just being financially responsible to my shareholders, but being responsible to all my stakeholders.
To many of you, hearing that profit and generating financial returns is not my “raison d’être” may come as a surprise. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to make money, of course I do. The world around us demands that we do to survive and thrive. And profit is certainly a key driver in so many ways as it fuels growth, catalyzes innovation, rewards high performing people and, most importantly for me, it provides what I call community investment capital (CIC).
CIC includes those resources that flow from businesses across the economy into the charitable and not-for-profit organizations/initiatives that are caring for disadvantaged youth, helping local schools, protecting natural ecosystems, funding health research and disease prevention, and supporting so many other good causes. The Delphi Group’s (www.delphi.ca) community investment capital equates to 1% or more of our gross annual sales, which during the recent recession amounted almost 50% of our annual profits one year!…Why would I give 50% of our profits away in a downturn? Well the answer lies in the first two questions above.
As a CEO, it’s easy to say that our role centers around what Lawrence King calls the Six Essential Roles of the CEO, which is true, but in this day and age we have to be more than that. I call it ‘Triple C’ Leadership, which revolves around three key pillars of positive change:
- Contributors – Philanthropy is essential. I believe we must put aside CIC and more importantly contribute time, provide good ideas, educate people, donate items of use, share our skills and experience and support personal growth and confidence in those initiating positive change in our communities.
- Catalyzers. – because of who we are, people look to us to take on leadership roles outside of our company and initiate, lead and/or support local causes, speak out and up about critical issues and engage actively in positively changing the neighbourhood, town, city, province, country or world we live in…one step at a time.
- Custodians. The hardest of the three Cs, this often takes us out of our comfort zone of creativity, results-oriented passion and fast-paced action to make money to one of compassion, empathy and ongoing time and encouragement to help those closest to us – family, friends, neighbours, etc. reach their goals and influence positive change.
In each of these roles we extend our leadership beyond the financial boundaries of our businesses and focus on maintaining and strengthening the social and environmental fibers that stitch us together as individuals, ultimately strengthening our communities and I believe making the world a better place.
At the same time, a long-term commitment to Triple C Leadership will yield commercial results by fostering a strong sense of purpose within the organization, establishing healthier and stronger relationships with key stakeholders and most importantly linking the various roles we play as a person (CEO, parent, community leader, coach, etc.). The results of focusing on the 3Cs in my business have been tremendous and include:
- Attracting & retaining the best and brightest in our field (National Employer of the Year x 2, and a finalist in all three years we applied)
- Enhancing corporate morale and increasing productivity
- Enhancing our brand and providing significant profiling, which has led to:
- market differentiation in our sector
- a substantial client base (including 26 of the top 100 in Canada)
- increased competitiveness
- rising sales and increasing profits
- Developing new products and services
- Undertaking innovative projects that link our social and entrepreneurial investments
Overall, creating new sustainable enterprises, empowering and educating people, and investing in innovation is the “match” with the social needs that we as a society must meet. I truly believe these extended “C” responsibilities are essential to success as a CEO in the 21st Century.
Try it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!
Mike Gerbis is CEO of The Delphi Group, a Canadian strategic consultancy and solution provider specializing in the areas of climate change and corporate sustainability. You can find out more about him in Success Stories.