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VIEWPOINT: TRUE LEADERSHIP: SPEARHEADING SOCIETAL CHANGE

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Did you know that you’re likely one of the wealthiest people ever to walk the earth? If you’re reading this article, it means you have access to either a computer, a laptop or a smartphone. You have electricity and a connection to the Internet. More than a third of the people on earth live on less than R30 a day, while 1,2 billion live on less than R15 a day. Let’s not lose perspective on the reality of wealth. Make a difference with it – be a leader that creates businesses that share value with society, for the betterment of all.

You may have heard the statistic that the richest 1% of people in the world now own almost half of the world’s wealth. With global inequality on the rise, it’s clear there’s a desperate need for wealth and value creation that touches all of society – not just a few.

Harvard professors Michael E Porter and Mark R Kramer, in their article on Creating Shared Value (Harvard Business Review, Jan/Feb 2011), offer this perspective: ‘A big part of the problem lies with companies themselves, which remain trapped in an outdated, narrow approach to value creation. Focused on optimizing short-term financial performance, they overlook the greatest unmet needs in the market, as well as broader influences on their long-term success. Why else would companies ignore the well-being of their customers, the depletion of natural resources vital to their businesses, the viability of suppliers, and the economic distress of the communities in which they produce and sell?’

But one might ask – whose responsibility is it to work towards a more sustainable future for the vast majority of humans on earth? I believe that strong and moral leadership has a huge role to play in ensuring that wealth is distributed more evenly. In an excellent article, Dr Robert Care, Arup Principal and Chair of Common Purpose Charitable Trust, explains why:

‘Leadership is important because good leaders (from all walks of life) are the ones who ensure there is an alternative vision to the status quo – and good leaders are instrumental in working with others to bring about the change. It takes good leaders to articulate what that society might look like, and it takes good leaders working with others to ensure that the vision is carried out.

‘An example I sometimes use is Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he identifies that all human beings need a purpose, and that from that purpose ensues happiness and fulfilment. This is a choice we can all make, to have a fulfilling purpose. For many of the world’s super rich, that purpose is very likely to be: “to make money to make more money to make more money”. What if those people could be persuaded to change their purpose – to one of only reasonable wealth, philanthropy, social responsibility or global sustainability?’

Now, you might ask, how would anyone change their purpose without being inspired, convinced and motivated to do so? I believe it’s up to leaders to express and encourage alternative ways in which we can achieve a fairer society. Finding a way where all 7,4 billion people can live on this planet sustainably is a necessity. It’s time to use your wealth of leadership to transform the world we live in.

Author:  Brett Tromp CA(SA) is CFO of  Discovery Health