I work in a social enterprise — a for profit business with a social mission. A social enterprise’s profits are optimized, with a majority of its earnings going back to its social causes.
For instance, it seeks to manifest much-needed changes in the country’s labor policy by paying its rank and file 71% above NCR minimum wage. This is done even as manufacturers of similar or larger scale complain that they will go bankrupt if they meet the 125 peso, across the board wage hike that has been pushed by labor groups for the last decade.
Of course, if your are paying the “bottom” more, changes need to be made at the top. At our office, executives coming in from multinationals, willingly take pay cuts. They agree to take home less because they believe in the company’s social mission. They do this because they have been comfortable most their lives, with careers (perhaps unknowingly?) built on the backs of the poor.
While all of this sounds good and novel — and for the most part, it is — we tend to forget that an organization is made up of people. A company’s mission is carried out by people and people are flawed and careless. In the face of operational difficulties, conflicting personalities, and hurt pride — people cease to become anything else but human. We lose sight of the mission, what we set out to do, because we are weary. We get tired.
It is easy to blame others, to highlight their faults, and to hide behind the veil of shared responsibility. For executives, it is difficult to assume command responsibility while ensuring that we do not deviate from the mandate to lift up & draw out the talents of those we lead.
How does one lead and inspire without lording over?
People have a tendency to sit back and relax (instead of helping out) when someone is doing most of the work for a team. And this causes burn out for the “shining star” and disengagement for the laggards.
How can a leader be responsible and excellent while guarding against his team’s mediocrity?
The answer lies in simple truths. We need to accept our lot — our real strengths and our faults. We need to reflect on how our negative reactions (brought about by pride, the need to dominate, defensiveness, insecurities) have prevented us from pursuing the excellence required of a mission so great.
We need to see that the mission — to lift the Philippines out of poverty — is bigger than our pride and personal yearnings. We will never succeed if we don’t get over ourselves.