Being very busy with my full time ‘day job’, I haven’t been out and about in the social enterprise / purposeful business space for a while (apart from with CSC Buying Group of course).
When you’re head down, it’s easy to forget about the truly awesome stuff happening out there. This is why it’s vital we have awesome friends and contacts to remind us and to add that spark to our thinking.
We all get busy leading up to Christmas, it’s almost like we expect the country to shut down for six months so it has to be done now. Then of course we find it doesn’t shut down but we’re back into the daily grind before we know it.
The festive season is a great time to let thoughts bounce around and I for one am immensely glad for the opportunity to sit down and listen to people who inspire me.
Sometimes all you can offer is being different.
Different ideas, background, experiences and values.
Often that is enough…
So much is being written these days about what a true leader is and isn’t. How they operate and how they interact with their teams and colleagues. The focus is now on human leadership, moving people from the system constructed management of days gone by. A large part of my LinkedIn feed is articles and memes about this and bookshop shelves are full of leadership manuals. Leadership seems to be the generic topic people wish to be seen as experts on, almost leaders in the leadership space.
I’m not knocking the current thoughts and opinions, we all want strong leadership in our organisations, from governance through to the ‘coal face’. Forgetting about business for a minute, the world would be a better place if more leaders took on-board some of this advice.
The thing that strikes me is how limited a lot of this information is. It focuses on leading teams and organisations. To me, this inwards focus doesn’t show people the full potential of effective leadership.
As a true leader, you need to see your role wider than just how well your organisation operates. Your organisation, if full of leaders, should itself become a leader in its own right.
I’m not talking about leading the competition, market leaders, the leading supplier of…, I’m talking about how your organisation can show true leadership, guiding and encouraging others on the journeys that are important to you.
An easy example of what I mean is the Chamber itself. Tania and the Executive must show leadership within the organisation – but they must also show leadership in the local business community. For them, there is literally no point effectively leading their own organisation unless they are also successful in leading business prosperity in Cambridge. Their leadership skills directly benefit us.
If we look past the aspect of direct competition, we all benefit when we have strong, successful businesses (and organisations). None of us operate alone; we’re all part of this big eco-system broadly called the economy. The more successful our customers are, the more we can sell. We need our suppliers to be successful to maintain continuity of supply. Our neighbouring businesses may employ our children or solve one of our problems.
You can show leadership by talking to peer organisations, your customers and your suppliers; engaging with the people within those organisations, hearing their stories and seeing where you can journey together on more than just business matters.
Leadership involves helping others to achieve their goals, it’s about finding common passions and it’s about shared visions. This is all done between people but there is no law to say those people have to be part of the same organisation.
In business, as in life, it’s about growing the pie not just growing your piece of that pie. True leaders look for success for everyone by working together, sharing their dreams and by recognising true leadership is more than leading a single team.
It’s more than just business.
If you care about the environment, you can lead your team to manage your own recycling or you could empower them to also help guide other businesses to share your environmental passion.
If you believe businesses can help support healthy, robust communities then your whole organisation should be leading the way. Share the story and show others how you support your community, talk about the benefits and explore how you can assist them on their own journeys.
Leadership is about shared strength and if we want to live in a great world, we all need to take the responsibility for strengthen those around us. If you think you have great leadership skills, then prove it! Show the world how you can lead more than one team or one organisation. Share those skills and build those skills in others. Be proactive in your sector and your community.
True leaders are conduits for change.
OK you operate a business, one that earns a profit to support a range of people that depend upon it for their livelihood, but the reality is that this doesn’t stop you having a normal interest in helping support your community.
You may donate to a local school or sports club. You allow the Guides to sell their biscuits in the lunchroom. You wear the ANZAC poppy with pride. It’s not really part of your everyday thinking though, nor does it influence the way you do business. It definitely doesn’t help solve the big issues.
Your skills are around running your business, making it as successful as you can. You simply can’t spend all day thinking about poverty or deforestation. You don’t like seeing all the plastic waste your suppliers send with their products but what can you do about it?
Have you ever considered that other people may have ideas about how you can make more of a difference – without it impacting on your bottom line?
Do you think that your experience may help someone else to operate their organisation more effectively?
The world is changing. There is a worldwide movement towards social enterprise and ‘purposeful business’. If we leave aside the fact that social enterprise can be a fluid term and that all businesses have a purpose, it is clear that there is a trend for organisations to operate with a social conscious or values driven outcome in mind.
Not only can you help with this but you can also benefit from it.
Imagine a place where commercial skills and experiences are shared with those new to business. A place where ideas on how we can operate differently to make a better community are shared over coffee.
That place is the Zone
It’s where purpose and business collide.
If you are involved in a business and are interested in contributing to a better world, this is the Zone for you.
If making a difference is your passion and you see commercial activity as a powerful resource to help support you, that’s right, the Zone is also the place for you.
The interest is definitely there so I’m looking to get the Zone moving. Please come and join our conversation, I would really welcome your input. The Zone has to meet the wants and needs of its members so I need to know how we can support each other.
2:00 to 4:00 pm
Thursday 1 February
113C Ruakura Lane
Read more about the Zone
I’m loving my journey into the new world of social enterprise. It’s fresh and exciting, people are both innovative and real, it’s awesome.
I just have a little itch in the back of my mind. A little feeling that there still looms a danger that Social Enterprise will become ‘a thing’, something different and separate to business and to traditional charity.
It is different but it’s not separate. By its very definition, a social enterprise conducts some sort of business activity. It also shares a social purpose, just like our traditional charities.
We don’t need any more silos. We need conversations and collaboration across all of our organisations. We can all teach, we can al learn and probably more importantly, we can all support.
Our badge of honour should be the values we bring, not the type of organisation we represent. We need to be inclusive and embrace the different skills, functions, systems and benefits of all organisations.
Social entrepreneurs place collaboration at the very core of what they do. If you truly believe in the benefits of collaboration, don’t fall into the trap of living in a silo. Not only will you miss out on so much knowledge and experience but you will also be denying non-social entrepreneurs access to your passion and drive for a different world.
Let’s not repeat past mistakes – we should be more open minded than that.