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Pivoting with Moral Leadership

By David Yee, Associate, CEO Engagement, CECP

During a recent CECP CEO Roundtable, current and former CEOs gathered virtually and shared insights from their perspectives on the business landscape. In these informative discussions, one executive noted that leadership, more so than having the right systems in place, is and will be integral as we navigate uncharted territory. Another executive shared an interview between Tom Friedman and Dov Siedman, Founder and Chair of LRN and the How Society, highlighting leadership’s importance and implications.

Friedman inquired, “This virus has triggered a global pause. You once remarked to me: “When you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. But when you press the pause button on a human being, they start — that’s when they begin to rethink and reimagine.” Is this such a moment?

In yoga, a pause can be a time to begin bringing awareness back to the present moment. These moments can clear the way toward a better path forward. The same can be said for business.

Siedman elaborates that great leaders will use this pause, once we see the other side of this pandemic, to reflect on their businesses’ impacts on society, values, and sustainable path forward which will lead to a pivot. He explains, “A pivot, as in basketball, is a very deliberate action where I put one foot solidly in place and I then move the other foot in a better direction.”

In Siedman’s follow-up article, he details his view that businesses will move their pivot foot toward the trending theme of stakeholder capitalism–he prefers the term  moral capitalism–which requires moral leadership. He continues to say, “More simply, moral leadership means putting people at the center of major decisions, seeing them in their full humanity with their own aspirations and concerns. In the past I’ve written in Fortune about the four pillars of moral leadership, and they apply even more urgently to our present crisis: Be driven by purpose; inspire and elevate others; be animated by values and principles such as courage and patience; and keep building moral muscle by wrestling with questions of right and wrong, fairness and justice, what serves others and what doesn’t.”

“In this fused world, the business of business can no longer just be business. Everything is now personal; the business of business is therefore society. Mission and margin, profit and principle, success and significance are now inextricably linked. In the fused world, how we behave, how we operate, how we govern, and how we relate to people and communities matters more than ever. Going forward, businesses are going to compete on trust, on responsibility, and on creating and maintaining deep relationships with their stakeholders rooted in shared truths and values.”

Many of these principles were echoed during CECP’s CEO Roundtables–that once we are able to overcome this pandemic, companies will have to reassess their massive transformations, to keep the positive changes they were forced to make due to nationwide restrictions, and let go of the past practices that no longer serve them.