Recharting our course to socially responsible leadership has been saved
Recharting our course to socially responsible leadership
The evolving focus of business leaders in a challenging world
Recent events related to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice have challenged us in new and painful ways, causing unequally shared human suffering, abnormal pressures on health and other critical systems, serious economic damage, and deep peril to many sectors and businesses. Too much has been learned to return to the way things once were, and this paper is an aspirational rallying cry for business leaders to proactively come together to forge positive societal change.
Authors’ foreword: Rebooting business while forging positive societal change
These are very difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in new and painful ways, causing unequally shared human suffering, abnormal pressures on health and other critical systems, serious economic damage, and deep peril to many sectors and businesses. The path forward remains very uncertain and still hazardous. Now, as we release this paper, our country is suffering extraordinary civic pain and strife, underscoring the harsh reality that systemic bias, racism, inequality, and injustice continue to exist. This adds even greater urgency to our arguments expressed below. Whatever happens in the months ahead, we should assume that we will eventually emerge from the current chaos into a differently ordered society, economy, and business environment. A simple return to the way things were before this crisis appears to be extremely unlikely. Too much has been learned. Too much has been endured by too many. And too bright a spotlight has been placed on too many systemic tensions, weaknesses, and failures of the prevailing order.
Like many others, we wrestle with the uncertainty and scale of all that is happening just now. We therefore share this perspective with deep humility. It is intended simply as an early contribution to what we believe is an essential dialogue regarding the evolving priorities for business leaders, socially responsible leadership, and our growing role in helping shape a better future.
The coauthors perform very different roles within our firm. Jason is managing principal and member of the Deloitte US Executive; while Eamonn, as chief futurist, helps anticipate the future implications of key trends for us and our clients. We have collaborated closely for years to integrate short and medium-term decisions and priority-setting with continued progress toward clear longer-term aspirations and imperatives.
Recharting our course: The evolving focus of business leaders in a challenging world
As our organization (like so many others) has had to address the new global leadership challenges of the pandemic, the importance of this integration across time has never been more important. The last couple of months have also reinforced a related shift that some organizations have been making—extending the conception of strategy beyond making choices to more fully focusing also on continuous generation of new (and sometimes provocative) options for inclusion in our consideration set. But most importantly, the responses to the pandemic from businesses across the United States and the world have already powerfully confirmed three of our beliefs that sit at the heart of this perspective:
- Most business leaders care passionately—about our people, customers, communities, and broader society;
- Individually and collectively, business leaders have extraordinary agency and a deep willingness to play a central role in forging positive societal change and addressing global leadership challenges;
- This broader role has been growing steadily in importance and urgency, and it is now imperative that many business leaders embrace socially conscious leadership more fully as a central part of the rebooting of their own businesses.
Addressing global leadership challenges of the pandemic
Today, the pandemic is providing a clearer line of sight and a much sharper call to action for business leaders in four key areas:
These rallying cries are not straightforward— as we know well from our own experience. But business leaders need not adopt neutral or disinterested perspectives on the post-pandemic future. It is neither partisan nor overreach to take clear principle-based positions. Businesses need a sustainable, healthy, and vibrant business environment to prosper, which requires an equally sustainable, healthy, and vibrant society.
Please download the complete perspective here.