My professional life has been dedicated to the success of socially conscious businesses, through marketing strategy with Among the Stars Consulting and through my networking group, SoCon Professional Networking. In multiple talks with colleagues from Conscious Capitalism Portland, something important emerged: Social consciousness in business is not just doing what you think you need to in order to generate profit. Social consciousness is making decisions with your heart and letting values drive your business.
What Does “Leading with Your Heart” Even Mean?
Leading with your heart in business means not only running a business but running it with a passion to make a positive impact on society.
While some out there might be thinking, “Isn’t that just corporate social responsibility?”, there are notable differences. The most important of these is that the term ‘responsibility’ implies an obligation, as though creating positive community impact were a transaction. When leading from the heart, it is more about a freely followed passion for a cause or a genuine desire to make a difference. Think of the different feeling you get from doing something good because you want to versus because you feel you have to — or because you should ‘do the right thing’.
It is wonderful to be socially responsible. It is even more wonderful when being socially responsible feeds your heart and soul.
For leaders with ideas and passion in their hearts wondering if there is a way to put that into their business or profession, the answer is a resounding YES.
Reason 1: Profit
For the majority of business owners and professionals, profit is the only bottom line. While the new paradigm of business is that there can be other bottom lines, the motivation of profit is still crucial to success.
What does this have to do with leading from the heart? As it so happens, a business with leaders who feel the mission in their hearts to create a better society has created a point of differentiation for itself. It is OK for a heart-led business to have profit as a motivation. If you are choosing something good for the community, as a professional you are also taking a chance that it will help your business be successful financially.
A common argument is that your motives are suspicious if you do something good with a motivation for profit. The fact is, the more profit your business creates, the more good you are able to do in the world. Whether you offer water dishes for customers’ dogs, train veterans for hire, start quarterly volunteer days for your department, or anything in between, you are taking the chance that this will be helpful for profit.
Studies show you are correct in this line of thinking: In a 2017 survey, 87% of Americans purchased a product from a company that advocated for an issue they cared about.
Reason 2: People
Any good business is built on the genuine belief that customers’ lives are improved by its products or services. Leading from the heart involves moving beyond the transaction into actively serving the community.
Serve your people according to what your company values. It can mean giving employees volunteer days or work-from-home options, providing water dishes for dogs on the sidewalk by your storefront, encouraging sports and offering healthy food options, donating used office furniture, or full Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives like having an annual toy drive. Your company may not be able to do everything at the moment, but you can do at least one thing that matters a lot to you.
“People” or “community” may refer to some or all of the stakeholder relationships your business relies upon:
- End users
- People who live in the same city as the business or location
- Employees’ families
- Anyone in your state, country or the world that may be impacted by your business
Actively serve people and the community by leading from the heart, and you’ll find your business growing as well as the happiness of yourself and the people around you.
Reason 3: Planet
The Earth, the ocean, the air, the water, the greenspaces — these are important to everyone. Making efforts to go above and beyond legal requirements for environmental friendliness will show customers who you are as a company. And the public judgment of a company’s environmental ethics makes a huge difference: Just look how quickly Cargill fell out of favor when its actions belied its environmentally-friendly image. Not taking care of the planet can easily ruin a company’s reputation.
Plus, caring for the planet often saves money in the long-term and in the short-term, which is why even large corporations are making environmental responsibility a priority. Being considerate of the environment is also being considerate of the Profit bottom line.
At the core of this bottom line is the fact that the planet is in everyone’s heart in some way. Even the most hardened city professionals like plants, trees, greenery, and gardens. When you think of a sad room, it has no plants or nature photos, windows, or art; even a little bit of nature makes people happier. The runaway success of movies and documentaries about wild animals and plants shows that people are interested. We all care about the planet, even in a passive way.
Set your company apart by making the planet a priority in a way that truly compels you. Recycling programs, low-flow water, full-spectrum lighting or installed skylights for daylight all work. Plus, if you can, go a little further: Look at logistics, including employee commuting; look at suppliers; look at packaging.
Reason 4: Purpose
Professionals today crave a deeper meaning to what they do. Give yourself, your employees and all your stakeholders more than just a paycheck to look forward to at work!
If you feel your company is doing well leading from the heart in any of these areas besides or in addition to Profit, I encourage you to make your commitment official by becoming a member of a group such as SoCon or Conscious Capitalism. Learn more about the SoCon mission here.