Net Impact founder says great leaders are liberators

Author: Ed Cohen

Net Impact founder says great leaders are liberators

When people are asked to think of a leader for the greater good, a name that immediately jumps to mind is Nelson Mandela, the post-apartheid leader of South Africa.

But Mandela was, by most accounts, not an especially effective president, said Mark Albion, social entrepreneur and best-selling author of books on values-based business.

Why is it then, Albion asked an audience at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business on Jan. 28, 2011, that Mandela received very little criticism while he was president or since?

He said the answer comes from one of Mandela’s grandsons, Dumani Mandela, who told him (Albion), that “When a leader’s M.O. and objectives and goals are clear, and all they really care about is serving you, how can we criticize that?”

Albion, former professor at Harvard Business School, is also the founder of Net Impact, a nonprofit organization for students and professionals interested in using business skills in support of various social and environmental causes. Notre Dame has two Net Impact chapters, one for undergraduates, one for MBAs.

The author, who has spoken at Notre Dame multiple times, devoted his talk this time to “Leadership for the Greater Good.”

He told students and others in attendance that leadership is an act of liberation, not control – “It’s about liberating others, and as you liberate others … you liberate yourself.” Then he shared a quote from Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Australian artist and activist:

“If you are coming to help to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Acting as a facilitator for others’ success is difficult for business people, who tend to be control freaks, he said, but it’s at the heart of leading for the greater good.

Albion, whose recent books include More than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer, also told students that career success starts with asking the right question.

“If you ask, ‘What does the market need, what skills do I have, therefore what should I do?’ that will take you in one direction,” he said.  Instead ask, “What is it that really makes me come alive?’” If you are bothered by a social problem or injustice, he said, figure out what needs to be done and what you can do to make a difference.

The author appeared as part of the fourth-annual Greater Good Series of lectures sponsored by Mendoza’s MBA and Master of Nonprofit Administration programs.

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