Profit, Inspiration, and the Future of Leadership

Dr. Purushothaman
December 17, 2013


Traditionally, CEOs focus primarily on growth and profit, and reasonably so. Taking a look at unique leaders who live by their values to achieve growth and profit in their own unique way is inspirational. As Robert Frost's poem, “The Road Less Traveled,” so beautifully depicts, we live in a life of difficult choices. In all of our decisions, in life and business, there is always a consequence of choosing which fork in the road to take:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Typically, companies put profits first and human beings far behind. Nevertheless, you are encouraged to take “the road less traveled” and challenge those priorities. As a movement, this leadership evolution places humanity first, as do most of inspired leaders. More than extending goodwill, more than investing in human capital, more than championing a good employee, inspired CEOs lead from a heartfelt concern for humanity, and that in itself enhances profitability, corporate culture, and ultimately, legacy.

In the post-ENRON era, we are all searching for new pathways to inspirational leadership. Research and cocktail conversation confirm that “cynicism is at an all-time high and trust at an all time low.” Our cynicism applies to the shared perception of today’s CEO, many of whom have rightfully earned reputations for greed, power, dishonesty, and aggression. My work, however, has brought me into contact with a very different kind of CEO, exquisite leaders, inspired men and women who have a mission far greater than their role to title.

These unsung CEOs of character, in addition to bringing their skills and competence to work, they also bring their souls as well. The leaders demonstrate that the evolved executive’s mission is not only about growth and profit. Their “meta-mission” is that of eliciting the best in others by inspiring and empowering them, and when needed, visioning for their highest good. For example, no one can listen to Coach Bill Curry's explanation of “the greatness of spirit within” and remain unstirred. Coach Curry's words go right to the soul as he wields the truth he has earned and lived for himself. Like the highly evolved leader he is, Curry not only shares his power, he elicits and facilitates others to define, “own” and express their power. He reminds others that they too have the greatness of spirit within them. He provides a powerful mirror to his world of players, clients, family and friends.

More than ever before, CEOs are caring about the greater good as well as the way they are perceived by others. To fairly describe today's business leadership, it's not all “ENRON, BP, Exxon” and the greedy profiteers. To the contrary, I am very pleased with a number of inspired CEOs and executives who live and lead from the “inside out.” These leaders are proof that inspirational leadership is actually more effective in today's market, as it will most certainly be in future markets. These executives have either consciously or intuitively embraced the principles of practicing self-care, caring for others, being authentic, scheduling personal reflection time, and embodying their values on a daily basis. They are well-integrated individuals who understand the difference between their soulful “essence” and their social “persona.” They have summoned the courage to “bring their hearts to work” and it enhances their own impact and effectiveness as well as their team, and ultimately, their shareholders.

There are practical, business reasons to embrace the path of inspired leadership as the future speeds towards us.

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