Civic Leadership And Business

I am a firm believer in the power of business to do good. Yesterday I had lunch with the Chairman of Burgerville. He is very involved with our business program at WPC, and he will be filling in for me in one of my classes next week while I am in Cincinnati with the ENACTUS group. We had lunch at Beaches, and I had the distinct pleasure to meet the owner of the establishment and hear about his passion for giving back to the community. By 2011 the Beaches Charity Fund raised $1,000,000 for various charities in Vancouver, and has a goal of $2,000,000 by 2016. The owner has personally been involved with providing breakfast for children in the Vancouver School District, among others, in Clark County.

This is an illustration of how business, with its ubiquitous nature, is a part of everyone’s life. Because of this it has the power to do good or bad. It is our choice, and I think both the men I mentioned in the paragraph above have made the right choice.

As I think about events that occurred yesterday, I reflect on what an Authentic Leader is. These leaders are individuals who understand their purpose, practice solid values, lead with their heart, establish connected relationships, and demonstrate self-discipline. These are characteristics identified by Bill George as being a part of Authentic Leadership. He stated, “Acquiring the five dimensions of an authentic leader is not a sequential process; rather, leaders are developing them continuously throughout their lives.” I would tend to agree with him theoretically and experientially.

These authentic leaders are emerging from all corners of our society. They are recognizing the need to accomplish things a little differently than has been done in the past. I would like to focus on one specific area of need in our society that, because of its criticality, needs work now. For the sake of this blog post, I am leaving off political titles because they get in the way. I am going to demonstrate how the power of business can make a difference.

If you ask yourself what is the most pressing need in the United States each of us may identify a plethora of items. I would like to focus on the diminishing middle class and increasing poverty. I would think that business, collectively, could be instrumental in turning this around. Taking steps to provide more opportunity for people to work and improve their lives is a noble endeavor.

Business is about work! Initiative! Opportunity! But I also think business is about developing a workforce that will help a company compete in the future. This means business has a stake in educational opportunities at elementary, secondary, and college institutions. Therefore, business needs to make sure that educational opportunities abound throughout our country.

Business is also about taxes. Business leadership involves ensuring that the tax system in this country is reformed to provide a fair tax rate for small and large businesses. This will ensure U.S. business can compete with the various tax havens throughout the world. Leadership within the area of tax reform is critical.

All of us agree the affordable health care is important. Wellness actions, as well as affordable and accessible health care, are issues important to business. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce, therefore business has a huge stake in the current healthcare discussion.

However, a possible candidate for the biggest issue in businesses today just may be the skills of the available workforce? The way we work has changed, and there are many people who do not have the skills necessary to be successful in this new work world. Therefore, many of them are now long term unemployed people. The longer they are out of work the less liable they are to find work. They could be people in their 40’s or 50’s, which mean a lot of years of lost productivity.

Safety nets are necessary, but they need to be effective and efficient. However, what is even more important is the ability to work. As Dave, a character in a movie, used to say, “Everyone works today.” When people are working they can climb out of poverty. Maybe we do need to raise minimum wage, I am not convinced, however, I am convinced there needs to be more opportunities for people to develop the skills they need to take initiative for themselves to improve their lives.

Opportunity and access to the needed resources should be fair and equitable. This does not mean that all receive the same outcome, but if our society, and its stakeholders, are not providing the same possibilities for its citizens, then we are missing the point and what an authentic life is. Supporting job skills events seems like a natural fit for business.

So all you authentic leaders, roll up your sleeves and lets get to work. Lets create opportunities for people to be socially mobile through hard work. Lets provide opportunities to develop the needed job skills. I think the free market can provide opportunities for all, and this is what business is all about, and make some money along the way.

And that is my thought for the day!

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