It was my first time to hear and see Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, live and in person, in Orlando Florida, delivering his closing speech at the global conference attended by thousands of employees from all around the globe. It was nothing short of moving, authentic, and inspiring as he rallied the troops to the new fiscal year. He was effective at shepherding and unifying the company’s more than a hundred thousand employees all over the world. In fact, Microsoft has transformed itself to become the leading cloud-company, empowering people and organizations.
CEOs like Satya abound in global business. They unify, move, and inspire hundreds of thousands of employees. From Richard Branson of Virgin Group to Jack Ma of Alibaba to Larry Page of Alphabet, CEOs unite and galvanize their employees all over the world, not only to increase shareholder value, but to also do some good for the community and society, and improve the lives of employees and others.
What’s glaringly interesting is that in the contrasting backdrop of this canvas of successful global leaders are several nations and countries experiencing fractious disagreements within and among themselves.
The list of unnerving headlines goes on: the refugee crisis in Syria, Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, the truck attack in France, the shooting of police in Louisiana, and the man with an axe on a train in Germany. This is capped by the failed coup attempt in Turkey; not to mention the defiant stance of China in the Scarborough Shoal the split among ASEAN on how to deal with the South China Sea row.
As observed by journalist Mark MacKinnon, “Our societies are fracturing into tribes”.
Furthermore, “In the UK, it’s Leavers versus Remainers. In Turkey, the failed coup has cleaved society into Erdoganites and Gulenists (after the movement accused of supporting the failed putsch). Almost everywhere, lines are being drawn between immigrants and the native-born. Black and white. Us and them.” What’s worse, these “tribes are turning on one another”. The root cause of this is that “Globalization led and regulated by the US is now considered a failure. People around the world are seeking the safety of their tribes.”
The tribe analogy presents a powerful depiction of how ethnicity, religion, beliefs, and affiliation can divide or unite people. The danger with tribal differences is that it may escalate to war, as shown repeatedly in history.
It is therefore incumbent upon the leaders of a nation or group of nations to unite its people, just like how successful and strong global CEOs unite their diverse employees across continents. They passionately communicate a shared purpose across geographical boundaries and rally everyone to even help communities and organizations.
So if leaders of nations are unable to glue together constituents and other nations to tackle pressing issues, can CEOs solve many of the world’s problems? I think they can.
In the seminal book A Better World, Inc: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems Where Governments Cannot, author and corporate social responsibility consultant Alice Korngold argues, “companies are the only organisations that can solve the world’s challenges.” Examples listed are Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, and Vodafone which helps boost economic development and fight poverty in some of the world’s poorest regions; Johnson Controls, Unilever, and Nike help tackle climate change; Ericsson and Intel are getting heavily involved in global education initiatives; AstraZeneca, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are involved in disease eradication and health development work. In addition, Microsoft Philanthropies is working with NGOs all over the globe to drive greater inclusion and empowerment of people who do not have access to technology.
We need more CEOs, who can make a meaningful difference in this world, and change the course of history.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.reylugtu.com.
The author is a senior executive in the information and communications technology sector. He is the Chairman of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He also teaches strategy, management and marketing courses in the MBA Program of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University.