Global Values: A Growing Challenge for Leaders
“We have come to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” —Oscar Wilde
The need for a world of profit with better purpose is explained by Mark Carney, ex-Governor of the Bank of Canada, in Value(s): Building a Better World for Us All (2020). In the book, Carney states: “Everything today appears solid, safe, permanent. But it is not what it seems. The Empire is gone. The Union is under threat. Permanence is temporary. And value is an illusion. In such times of turbulence, faith in a commodity replaces trust in institutions.”
Carney explains how “market economies” have evolved into “market societies” where price determines the value of everything. He presents a list of physical, political, social, economic, and natural risks, which could be reduced if society shifted from focusing on the price of everything to understanding its true value:
- Decline of natural resources, particularly water
- Collapse of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity
- Human population growth beyond Earth’s carrying capacity
- Global warming and human-induced climate change
- Chemical pollution of the Earth system, including the atmosphere and oceans
- Rising food insecurity and failing nutritional quality
- Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction
- Pandemics of new and untreatable diseases
- The advent of powerful, uncontrolled new technology
- National and global failure to understand and act preventatively on these risks
When people and institutions think about what we value most highly, we might list fairness, health, the protection of our rights, economic security from poverty, the preservation of natural diversity, resources, and beauty. The tragedy is that these things, which we hold dear, are too often the casualties of our 21st Century world putting profit above human potential. Carney offers a vision of a more humane society and a practical manifesto for getting there. This includes some common values underpinning a successful organization:
- Dynamism: Creating solutions and channeling coworker creativity.
- Resilience: Making it easier to bounce back from shocks, while protecting the most vulnerable in the company.
- Sustainability: Aligning incentives across generations with long-term perspectives.
- Fairness: Sustaining their legitimacy, particularly in markets.
- Responsibility: Ensuring that individual coworkers accept accountability for their actions and performance.
- Solidarity: Guaranteeing that coworkers and colleagues recognize their obligations to each other and share a sense of company harmony.
- Humility: Recognizing the limits of our knowledge, understanding, and power, so that we act as custodians, seeking to improve the company common good.
To inspire confidence and trust for their initiatives, Carney explains, effective leaders must engage, explain, and emote. Their organization must continually earn its legitimacy and optimize its impact. It must stay true to its purpose – a purpose grounded in the objectives of its clients, colleagues, and society – while transforming the value of the market back into the value of humanity.
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Vice President Emeritus for Learning Technologies Donald Smith, Ed.D, CPT, headed ME&A programs in learning, leadership, and performance enhancement. He stayed with the firm in his retirement, bringing more than 65 years of experience as a coach, designer, facilitator, evaluator, manager, educator, and organizational change architect in more than 50 countries.