There are trends and buzzwords in corporate leadership that can often be annoying. There was the period of “synergy,” the period of “new paradigms,” then we had “six-sigma,” and over the past couple of decades, “conscious capitalism” has become one of those sorts of cliche sayings that get bandied about in corporate culture. However, leading a business with conscious capitalism is actually a pretty good thing. It tends to address most, if not all, the complaints socialists throw at the free market.
Conscious capitalism, in a leadership fashion, is most typically presented as a new form of capitalism or a re-imagining of it. The key goal is to place other objectives above a business simply pursuing profits. However, it’s really just the same old capitalism we all know, but with businesses recognizing changes and adapting to meet what people want. At the core, it’s motivated by becoming a better business, and as a consequence more successful and profitable. It’s the same old-fashioned motive, just adapted to new customer demands.
According to Conscious Capitalism, there are four tenets:
Higher purpose: Businesses should exist for more than just profit.
Stakeholder orientation: A focus on all “stakeholders” in the business, including not only management/ownership, but also employees, suppliers, the community (the environment), and even competitors.
Conscious leadership: Leaders focus on “we” rather than “me.”
Conscious culture: Fosters love and care between a company’s management and its stakeholders.
Socialists tend to point out the negative effects of capitalism in the form of corporate greed, the poor treatment of workers, income inequality, employment insecurity, income insecurity, and environmental harm. Many of these criticisms are the result of cronyism, but even within the environment of cronyism, there are forces at work that tend toward resolving these issues.
Capitalism rewards companies for meeting the demands of customers. Capitalism has evolved the way businesses operate over time. In the industrial era, businesses treated employees as parts of a machine – interchangeable parts that were essentially no different from any other commodity. In the modern era, with some arguable exceptions, employees are comparatively viewed as individuals. Not perfectly so, but far more than in the past.
As things have evolved, it hasn’t really been government at the heart of changes in the view of workers as individuals, but it’s been more the way that individuals react to companies. When companies treat their employees like dirt and information about this makes its way out into the public, customers tend to quit rewarding the company with their business, and quality employees tend to choose to work elsewhere. Treating employees poorly, after time, results in lower profits. As does not taking environmental impacts into account, not making sure employees have stability, etc.
It isn’t perfect, and many problems persist, mostly because of government involvement and tampering with the mechanisms that most efficiently address these issues. For example, when there are burdensome regulations, there are much higher barriers to entry that create less competition, and therefore less pressures to bear on the kinds of things that typically concern the problems socialists want to address.
Conscious capitalism is a natural reaction and a natural evolution that occurs because the public demands it. If these problems are to be addressed efficiently and successfully, the solutions rest with the mechanisms that exist in capitalism. The adoption of leadership in a capitalist society that makes use of conscious capitalism, even within a system that currently fights against some of those mechanisms, still seems to find its way into resolving issues that the public demands from companies before they will reward them with their business.
Companies like Whole Foods and The Container Store, that have made conscious capitalism a mantra in their operations, demonstrate that when a company meets with what consumers want, they grow with more profits than they otherwise might. Businesses that listen to what consumers want have always and will always perform far better than those that don’t.
If only socialists would recognize that they don’t have to fight so hard to get what they want. They don’t have to demand that government change. They don’t have to demand a Green New Deal. They don’t have to force the world with threats of coercion and violence to get what they want. All they have to do is seek out businesses that instill the values they want and do business with them as apposed to doing business with others. Companies either respond to consumer desires or they die and go away. It’s a much better system than threatening people with guns.
Socialists, you’re focusing your efforts in the wrong direction. Instead of trying to force your ideas onto people with threats, try rewarding those that are already addressing the sorts of things you want to happen. Study the way companies operate and the goals they set. Then, reward the ones who have the goals you desire. Things will happen more quickly and with less coercion. Want to seize the means of production? Gather up your other socialist comrades and start a business with the goals you have in mind. Guess what? You are now in control of the means of production. Is that not what you really want? Give the world a picture of what can happen when you demonstrate how corporate culture and companies should function. If you are successful, then others will definitely follow your lead.
Leadership and making significant changes in society happens not from force, but by making use of mechanisms already in place, demanding fewer barriers for those mechanisms to work, and then demonstrating how effective your ideas really are. Conscious capitalism should be your goal. Not socialism.
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