Living your values

THE world can be a complicated place. Most of us don’t really know what goes on behind the closed doors of government, big business, the industrialists, the money movers, the media moguls. There is a small band of (mostly) men whose pursuit of wealth, property and power has direct impact on you and me. The decisions these people take affect the ebb and flow of money, the global movement of trade, the availability and price of goods and services and oil, the availability and distribution of food and medicine, the quantity and quality of information and other things that affect our daily lives. And we live in the hope, forlorn for many, that these people won’t destroy the world or make it unsafe or unhealthy for too many world citizens. We like to think that these are people who make decisions that are not only economically sound, but also socially and environmentally responsible – decisions that will enable more people around the world to live healthily and peacefully tomorrow than do today. Now you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or extremist (just a realist) to believe that governments often lie, or that the politicians and their advisers, and the industrialists and financiers of the world, sometimes make decisions that are to the extreme detriment of millions of people. And when one of their own, James Wolfensohn, the wealthy former investment banker and former president of the World Bank (1995-2005) says that the world is out of kilter, maybe we better listen harder than ever before. Some of Mr Wolfensohn’s views were reported by Roy Eccleston in The Australian on February 4 2004, suggesting that the rich minority on the planet live for today and don’t see the deluge of impoverished people about to descend on them during the next 30 years. The world’s developed countries spend vast amounts on arms but only a fraction on aid. There’s a protectionist mood in the US and Europe at present and that’s a problem, because without free trade the poor countries can’t prosper. All these things add up to poverty and despair for many of the 5 billion people in the developing world, and help fuel terrorism and extremism. What has this to do with a column on growing business through leadership and management? Consider this; the attitudes of global leaders, like those described above, influence the behaviour of the leaders down the food chain. Observe whether your direct leaders are authentically valuing social and environmental requirements, or simply interested in their own agendas and monetary wealth. The reality may be this – our wellbeing is mostly influenced by leaders. Perhaps we need to develop the skill of leading from any position, by living our values and setting an example that others are compelled to notice and follow. Could we decide that we too can make a difference and lead for the benefit of all rather than just for the status quo? Or will we remain apathetic and easily distracted by the next Oscar awards or footy final. Or will we justify our apathy by saying, “It’s out of my hands and anyway I’ve got to pay off my mortgage and educate my kids.” Have you noticed that we get too tied up in our own struggle to manage our spiralling debt and busyness at the same time as the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? Our current rash of world leaders is intent on remaining in power, and in order to do that many will grow the status quo. Leadership and management in everyday life and the workplace suffer from this influence. Yet we can do something about it – simply act with integrity, live your shared values and do not compromise them. The only reason we don’t do this is because of fear. All that we don’t like, yet still tolerate, is held in place by our fears – nothing else – whether in the developing world, our world, our community, our workplace or our homes. Simply, we can make a difference by living our values, setting a compelling example and overcoming our fears. No, it’s not easy, but so what? Nothing worthwhile is easy. In the next two columns, I’ll explain a leadership framework that will help you do this. (This column first appeared in April 2006.)

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