What Kind of Leaders Do We Need Now? Elie Wiesel’s Answer

What Kind of Leaders Do We Need Now? Elie Wiesel’s Answer

It’s always a good time to ask what kind of leadership we need because the world is constantly changing. But the world is not only changing. It’s being dramatically reshaped, making us ask the question not just with more urgency but through a different lens.

I met with five students this afternoon who, not just in their ideas but in their convictions and actions, hold the answer to the question in business and in any other context. These students–together with countless others have participated in the annual Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics essay competition for the past twenty-five years–exemplify the kind of leadership we desperately need today: ethical leadership.

While some tend to believe that ethics or morality belongs to the “personal” sphere, cordoned off from the “professional” sphere (recalling The Godfather’s famous line “it’s not personal, it’s just business”), the fact is that these two spheres can be no longer kept separate in a world that has gone from connected to interconnected to interdependent.

More than ever before, as we see every day, we rise and fall together. A vegetable vendor in Tunisia sparks a revolution. A banker singlehandedly loses two billion dollars, triggering a global financial meltdown. And Martha Payne, a nine-year-old in Scotland, posts about her school system’s unhealthy food, endures attempts at censorship from education officials, and ultimately spawns a diet-reform movement throughout the U.K., even raising money for hungry children in Malawi. We receive daily examples of how intimately bound we are to each other: major brands changing their products due to blogger activism, workers using social media to mobilize and force companies to increase wages, and powerful leaders losing their jobs due to one tweet or leaked recording.

What these trends reveal is our new interdependency, a state in which the actions of so few are able to affect so many so far away in unprecedented ways. What happens in one “sphere” of our lives will inevitably impact the other “spheres,” rendering the age-old separation of the “professional” and “personal” philosophically bankrupt and practically impossible. Everything is now personal, which is why interdependency is a moral reality.

The greatest consequence of this reality is that the only viable strategy—for individuals, teams, organizations and countries—so that we, in fact, rise together and achieve our most cherished goals, is to forge healthy interdependencies.

Healthy interdependencies, at their core, are not that complicated. They are about how we relate to each other. They’re about behavior that’s animated by values that sustain human relationships—sustainable values, in other words. These behaviors allow us to create value, deepen connections and build enduring relationships.

Continued reading on Forbes.com.

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