A new report from IBLF and the Ashridge Business School launched today reveals that business leaders are increasingly aligning their core business to serve not just direct customers, but also the interests of wider society.
Watch an exclusive video interview with Sir Stuart Rose.
Based on a series of in-depth interviews with senior executives, “Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World – How Business Leaders are Reframing Success”
was launched at a breakfast briefing held at the Institute of Directors in London. The report is co-authored by Jo Wackrill and Graham Baxter from IBLF and Matthew Gitsham, Director of the Centre for Business and Sustainability at Ashridge.
The event - sponsored by Coca Cola Enterprises - saw IBLF’s Chairman, Mark Foster
(former Group CEO, Accenture) take the stage to 'interview' Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO of M&S and Matthew Gitsham of Ashridge. An extremely interactive and insightful discussed followed, covering key findings from the report and their implications in the current climate. These findings include:
- A growing number of senior executives see a pursuit of business growth that is 'smart', 'inclusive' and 'responsible' as fundamental to the creation of long-term value
- More business leaders are connecting company success with social progress and paying attention to social and environmental issues that have conventionally been the territory of political leaders and NGO activists
- Not only do business leaders need to lead significant cultural change within their businesses, but they now need to increasingly work with others to play a leadership role beyond conventional business boundaries
- Senior executives now need to develop skills in areas that have not previously been a conventional part of the business leader’s repertoire
Sir Stuart Rose reflected on his own experiences and shared his views on how business leadership needs to change. He asserted:
- Younger people in the organisation often 'get' the sustainability agenda and it is often the people at the top who are slower to change
- It is the CEO’s job to keep up the drumbeat and unleash the energy and power of the organisation
- It is crucial for business leaders to set ambitious targets and to be prepared to put their heads above the parapet. Despite the risks, they must set a course of action and stick to it
- It is critically important for businesses to build trust with consumers and society by acting with integrity and delivering value to society
"No longer is business leaders’ engagement with social issues largely ‘defensive’ and relegated to an annual philanthropic gesture, or a token recycling programme. This is in sharp contrast to a generation ago.
The invitation-only event saw over 100 attendees from both business and other sectors engage in a lively Q&A session featuring challenging questions.
The report identifies a range of examples where helping address major societal challenges goes hand-in-hand with successful business practice. IBLF and the Ashridge Business School believe that this trend is indicative of a 'new generation' of leaders. Could these examples become the norm for the majority tomorrow?
Sir Stuart stated: “There are chief executives who are ahead of the game. There are chief executives who are more visionary. There are chief executives who recognise that the world is not the place it was 10 years ago and that they have to find different routes and listen to different inputs. They are necessarily in the minority. The tail end will never catch up and the rest are in the middle. The middle's a comfortable place to be, and everybody else seems to be doing the same thing until you suddenly find, ’Oops! They’re not doing that any more. Oh dear!’, and you realise you’ve been left behind.”
Yet not all top executives are recognising the need to lead differently.
The report also highlights the many hurdles faced by those who do decide to challenge the status quo. Co-author of the report, Matt Gitsham, Director, Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability, said: “You might think, that as a business leader, you cannot afford to waste time and resources on these challenges, that it is not your job. But as your peers at the top of a growing proportion of the world’s most influential businesses reshape and redefine tomorrow’s business landscape and what it means to succeed as a leader in it, the evidence suggests that in today’s world, you cannot afford not to.”
FURTHER INFORMATIONLeadership in a Rapidly Changing World: How Business Leaders are Reframing Success is produced by Ashridge Business School and the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) on behalf of the United Nations Global Compact and Principles for Responsible Management Education, to inform debate and action at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012.
It is based on interviews with Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO and Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer, Neville Isdell, former Chairman & CEO of The Coca Cola Company; Paul Walsh, CEO of Diageo; John Brock, Chairman & CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises; Lord Browne, former CEO of BP; Sir Mark Moody Stuart, former Chairman of Shell and Anglo American; Frederick Chavalit Tsao, Chairman of IMC Pan Asia Alliance Group; Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet: Richard Reed, Co-founder of Innocent Drinks, Mark Foster, former Group Chief Executive, Accenture, and others.
For IBLF, this is the culmination of an extensive programme of work with Ashridge Business School over the past year, in which primary research has been undertaken into various aspects of leadership through a series of in-depth interviews with senior executives. IBLF is now planning the next phase of research which will extend our interviews to leaders in India, China and Russia.