I have found myself having a lot of conversations recently about the notion of responsibility in a personal and leadership sense. It’s a theme I feel I know a lot about having been a ‘seriously responsible’ person since I was a child although I think I’m managing to remedy some of that tendency now – like all things they can become distorted and for me that often shows up as taking on too much responsibility.
The conversations however have me thinking about what it really means to take responsibility in today’s world.
Once upon a time, we relied on our public or corporate leaders to shoulder responsibility for making the right decisions and getting things done – hoping (and sometimes praying) that they would act from a place of greater good.
The world is different now though. With the breaking down of so many organisations and institutions reputationally – big business, religion, politics – we appear to have less faith generally in the formal leaders of our time. That said, the level of trust and expectation that is placed in business leaders to get involved in and take responsibility for driving change in social and environmental issues is on the rise. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust barometer, 76% of people surveyed (30,000 globally) feel that CEOs should take the lead on change and not wait for the government to sort it out.
For me, this defines a new level of responsibility for business leaders – a responsibility that is both personal and leadership related.
Personal because it’s about how we show up, of course, it’s about what we stand for and, more than ever, it’s about our relationship with the role of leadership. It goes way beyond the confines of the business or organisation and into a wider leadership role.
Though unlikely to be written in the job descriptions – though it needs to be – this level of responsibility is a massive call to action for leaders to step into using their experience and wisdom and their position and place in the world to achieve greater good outcomes. For sure coalitions of business leaders exist and are having discussions about the broader agenda. The World Economic Forum is a case in point. But like all things in our lives at this time, that level of responsibility – personal and leadership – has to be amplified.
Amplified in a way that takes us beyond our comfort zone, into a place of stretch and into a place where, if needed, we are prepared to risk all to achieve bigger and more far-reaching outcomes – not in the name of profit but in the name of the overall well-being and, we might say, the survival of the human race and our planet.