What are some of the new competencies needed by association CEOs and nonprofit executive directors who want to use social responsibility as a business driver within their organizations?
I thought Iâ€™d ask an expert, in this case Professor Chris Laszlo, author of the how-to book Sustainable Value (2008, Stanford University Press, 2008) and a speaker this morning during the online â€œAssociations and Social Responsibilityâ€ summitâ€”the virtual next-steps event to continue momentum and learning started at the Global Summit for Social Responsibility last May.
I had interviewed Chris in March in preparation for the original summit, so I revisited my transcript to recall what was said about leadership competencies.
â€œI would say framing social responsibility as â€˜value creationâ€™ rather than as a moral agenda is critical to making [any effort] successful, and, quite frankly, a lot of organizations donâ€™t get that yet,â€ Laszlo had said. â€œEven if they say they get it, my experience is that they donâ€™t. At some deeper level they think thereâ€™s got to be a moral agenda to this some place.â€
CEOs also will need to develop a higher comfort level about taking advice and suggestions from even the lowest of the ranks, Laszlo noted.
They also will, strangely enough, need to â€œdiscourage creating environmental and social targets for their own sake. Once people in the mid-level of the organization understand that environment and social thinking is something that is now part of what the top management wants, you tend to have some people who run around an organization looking for the good environmental and social actions, but theyâ€™re doing it for the sake of those environmental/social actions.
â€œI think the CEO has to make it clear from the start that weâ€™re talking about looking for environmental and social actions that are going to enable the organization to pursue its economic objectives better, not environmental/social actions for their own sake.â€¦,â€ he continued. â€œThis is about satisfying your customer. This is about creating new financial value. This is about enabling you to meet your traditional economic metrics. That is a unique CEO kind of role.â€
David Cooperrider, Ph.D., a colleague of Laszloâ€™s at Case Western Reserve University, agrees. He added some of his own thoughts in this regard during a Q&A session this afternoon. You can listen to his entire presentation when you click on his PowerPoint presentation in the Resources section and the audio (up shortly) in the â€œShare and Reflectâ€ section of the summit site.