Alan Murray is a frontline advocate for values-driven leadership approaches and the positive potential of stakeholder capitalism. In dialogue with Frank Blake, Alan shared insights he’s gained from daily conversations with CEOs navigating the pandemic’s complex challenges.
Two or three decades ago, all the information went to the top of the corporation. People at the top made a strategy then orders came back down the line. Today, people at the top find their job is much more about setting direction, values and being a North Star – providing inspiration and motivation. Increasingly, empowered workers who have a sense that they’re doing good in the world are going to be your best assets regardless of the size of your business.
In times of crisis habits get broken in dramatic ways, giving leaders the opportunity to reflect and determine whether it was a good habit or if there is an opportunity to create something better. Meanwhile, some reactions to crisis simply reflect a bias toward the new status quo. Understanding our habits and recency biases, we’ll have the opportunity to resume valued and effective business practices when we re-emerge from this crisis.
Millennials really are a distinct generation in that they are not big “joiners.” Rather than affiliating with a religious institution, Elks Club or country club their employer has become their main formal connection to society, so they are putting a lot more hopes and aspiration into that employer to feel that they are doing good in the world.
Murray believes corporate generosity is shown through the tough times in the “how” of business decisions. How you think about it, how you go about it, how you communicate it. Is it a reflexive action or a thoughtful action? How you handle yourself during the toughest times is going to determine the quality of the company going forward.
We believe business is a force for good. In the last three decades Murray has seen the biggest elimination of poverty in the history of world which was all accomplished by an embrace of capitalism. But more and more leaders are claiming that we must continue to focus on doing better.
The focus on people is an essential quality of running a business in the new economy and that’s not going away. The person at the top must provide vision, direction, and guard rails more than direct orders. That aspect of moral leadership is becoming more important in order to effectively guide employees. It’s not just about profit. You’ve got to make a profit, but you can build up moral capital over time that helps you weather hardship.
Murray references the theme of goBeyondProfit and stakeholder capitalism reflecting that this concept is not simply a “good times” conversation driven by employees in a very tight labor market where businesses are trying to compete for the most talented workers. In fact, the majority of CEOs say that this isn’t going away.