22 February, 2023

Becoming a CEO of Love, Embracing the Dividend of Joy

Becoming a CEO of Love, Embracing the Dividend of Joy

Traditionally, success in the business world has been viewed through the narrow lens of maximising profits and enhancing shareholder value. This superficial understanding of success has significantly contributed to the sustainability challenges now confronting us, in an era marked by resource depletion, socio-political strife, environmental degradation, and mounting social inequity. The world today is defined by a marketing economy, that has dominated over the market-driven economy. This single-minded pursuit of financial gain has steered us onto a perilous path, driving unsustainable consumption and materialism – at the expense of our planet and well-being of life.

An Unstoppable Collective Awakening

As historian Adam Tooze puts it, we live in an era of polycrises, defined by the World Economic Forum as where “disparate crises interact such that the overall impact far exceeds the sum of each part”. Except the thought that these crises are disparate is, itself, an illusion. Reality is whole – crises are all inter-connected, and we must be one collective force in the wake of such adversities. Today, in face of the plurality of challenges confronting human society and nature, we have awakened to the reality that companies can no longer be driven by short-term profit as a priority.

With the advance of technology availing information to all, businesses are now being held to task to their responsibility in this crisis. Already, some businesses are morphing to be purpose-led from old school of profit-driven. Standing at the forefront, top business leaders are the very soul of their companies and are pivotal to lead this shift. They are the proverbial Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of this revolutionary trend.

Around the world we are awakening to the urgency and need for a new form of leadership. The public is demanding, and the industry is responding. New foci and measurements of success have has taken central stage in how we conceptualise finance and businesses, through Impact Investment and Environmental Social and Governance. CEOs uniquely possess the power to reimagine and redefine success. Consequently, success measurements are shifting from profit-driven myopia to a purpose-led approach, and this transformation will play a pivotal role in addressing the numerous, intersecting challenges.

Around us we bear witness to a new consciousness amongst businesses. In this transformative journey towards purpose-led business, it is essential that we understand that the well-being of life is at the core of all human endeavours, while acknowledging that profit is a natural result when we are in service to meet genuine human needs and positively add-value to society. Such enterprises are unwavering in their commitment to aligning their operations with the well-being of all stakeholders. They prioritise adding value to life and wholeheartedly commit to evolve to sustain.

Correspondingly, the concept of corporate philanthropy needs to be redefined. Philanthropy is not an institution. It is instead a culture, a daily life awareness and habit. Philanthropy must be embodied in our ethos and thinking, thus giving rise to our mindset. As human beings, we must be prepared to love, to care, and to add value to the needs of our shared world. This takes us to a new form of leadership, which is embodied by the vision of serving as CEOs of Love. It’s time for us all to embrace love and put down fear and control. We must shift towards caring for the world, and towards love.

We are all CEOs of Love

Love is not so much an emotion, as an ethos and a way of life – something that inspires us to care for the external reality as we discover our own internal purpose. Love is a holistic mindset of alignment and being in oneness with all life. It emerges when we align our inner world with the external environment.

Love is a resonance and is the core of well-being. Love is present when there is self-acceptance, expression of care in connection with one another, with the sole purpose of nurturing well-being for all life. Love is the fuel for courage, and source of hope for the flourishing of life.

Love is our nature; we naturally seek connection and alignment. The larger our sphere of influence, the more love is expressed, and consequently the bigger the impact. Love is the flipside of fear, which is in the mind. It is love, not fear, that drives change. In businesses, the drive falls directly on the shoulders of their leadership, to step up to be a CEO of Love. Our essence is whole, and therefore interconnected. Love is when we share the joys of our inner world, with the outer world. Fear, on the other hand, is a transient emotion that alerts us to threats.

On paper, CEOs are tasked with chairing and presiding over the executive decision-making processes of their corporations, maximising shareholder dividends and returns, and delivering for the consumers, supporters, and employees affiliated with their companies. Yet in practice, CEOs must evolve in face of challenges, staying alert to external changing demands and align their business models to stay relevant in the market. This alignment gives rise to a culture of service for the needs of the market.

This is corporate philanthropy – this is love. CEOs must change their leadership approach to one with love. Love is the precursor to care, and when we care with love, we will become truly creative. It is our nature to create. It is this brand of creativity that gives rise to the solutions to today’s sustainability challenges. Businesses will be judged by their impact and alignment with humanity’s goals. Correspondingly, CEOs of Love should recalibrate our business compass, towards true purpose, to step up to the true role of businesses in society.

We must embark on a journey to reform business, reorienting its core to prioritise life and stewarding their organisations with new consciousness. To do so, CEOs must embrace the process of restoration – restoring purpose to our business, restoring health to our planet, and restoring joy to every member of our societies.

Restoring Purpose

Economist Adam Smith had envisioned a free market that would be driven by enlightened self- interest – with the social contract that places care for each other and a sense of purposefulness at the core focus of businesses. This is sadly not the case today. The constant pressure to improve financial yields, boost productivity, and increase market competitiveness have systemically weakened the relationships between employers and employees. Workplaces have become mere production houses, whilst workers are becoming more like machines churning out standard products efficiently with little space for innovation.

However, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) should be welcomed not feared. For just as creation of steam freed our legs and electricity freed our hands, the rise of AI is freeing our minds. On one hand, AI has reshaped the landscape of business and society in radical ways, harnessing nascent technologies to augment the potential and well-being of consumers, innovators, and other beneficiaries of new technologies. Automation has certainly rendered obsolete many left-brained focus jobs, which require high levels of standardisation and accuracy; these jobs are now better performed by machines. Blue-collar, white-collar workers alike are finding themselves out of jobs, with many left struggling for survival, the most basic level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs.

The good news is that humans are naturally creative. To survive the era of automation, we only need to activate our right creative brain. Love is key in retaining, retraining, and accessing our unique gift for the new era. Correspondingly, CEOs of Love must create companies that not only attract the right people but also foster a coherent environment to release the most valuable resources of the era — our purposeful, creative hearts and the passion for life.

By having an orientation and focus on the flourishing of the system of life, we can create real value in this transformative age. The new orientation integrates making good profits with achieving genuinely transformative purposes, thereby restoring meaning to our workers and workplaces. We must also educate our staff and families about the challenges we face – across social, economic, and environmental levels. They must in turn be empowered to participate in and experience such challenges.

When CEOs of Love lead purpose-led businesses, they are in alignment with UNSDG #17, as they will naturally partner and collaborate, share a common vision, radiate, and evolve as one to shift to the next level of consciousness. Businesses will consequently focus on collaboration-centric strategies, that add-value to life as a whole, whilst growing the value of our companies, instead of pursuing competitive strategies in favour of a winner-take-all economy.

Restoring Health to Our Planet

We must also restore health to our planet, which is sick to its core. The sustainability challenge is not a distant, abstract notion; it is a current moment of reality. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, soil acidification, ocean pollution, and the dwindling availability of natural resources are but a few stark manifestations of this challenge. The sustainability challenge is shared by everyone on this planet. No single entity caused this challenge, yet we all had a hand in it. It would take a global effort to re-align us to meet this challenge. After all, well-being is the coherency of the entire system of life – including nature, humanity, and the planet.

If left alone, nature will flourish. Life has always conquered, adapted, and survived against all odds. We must restore nature to the state where it is truly alone. As CEOs, family business owners, and leaders of corporations, we have a key role to play. We are positioned to impact and are stewards to resources needed to confront these pressing issues, to safeguard the health of our planet, and to build a brighter future for all. Embracing purpose as the guiding principle is beyond an ethical imperative; it is a strategic necessity that ensures flourishing and prosperity for both businesses and society. We must align the purposes of our businesses with the fostering of a better, more liveable, and more welcoming world – not only for the sake of our present contemporaries, but also for our future generations.

The value-add we bring to life is our purpose that promises to leave a legacy. By integrating well- being and value-add into our business philosophy, we shall contribute significantly to the preservation of our planet and the enhancement of the quality of life for all its inhabitants. This legacy is not defined solely by financial success; it is characterised by our resolute commitment to the betterment of humanity, society, and the environment.

Restoring the Dividend of Joy to Humanity

Our future is in our hands. It is up to leaders and CEOs of businesses, to lead the way, to show the power of love and care. I believe that with this move, we produce the most valuable dividend, the dividend of joy, on top of the financial one, which fuels and feeds the flourishing of humanity and life. The dividend of joy is the true and enduring return to humanity. It cannot be reduced into purely monetary or financial terms, yet clearly, sustainable profits would almost certainly result from the pursuit of harmony of both within the businesses, and between the businesses and society at large.

As we celebrate our joy with a sense of gratitude towards life, peace would not be far away. In face of seeming impediments, we must choose love – for only love gives us the boundless dividend of joy. In undertaking this transformative journey, we become authentic agents of change, champions of an equitable, sustainable, and compassionate world. We have the power to usher in a future where the dividends of joy and well-being enrich the lives of all life. This new era has dawned upon us.

Either we choose to lead the change and co-create the new future together, or change will consume us. Are you, as the CEO, going to respond to your calling and be ready to embrace Love?

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