Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, has it right. Government officials are digging their heels into their antagonistic positions and blaming each other for not enabling workable solutions and a consensus to implement them. He proposed that people boycott making election donations to politicians who seem to be using the money to attack their competition, rather than generate new solutions.
If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. With government effectively frozen for the next 12 months until the 2012 election, he recently announced the “Create Jobs for America” program; he’s leveraging the power of Starbucks to reach 60 million people and enable them to contribute money ($5.00 or more) to be used to help create jobs by donating it to the Opportunity Financial Network which lends money to small businesses. His goal is to engage other businesses in this worthy enterprise.
But the real goal has to be larger. It’s time for business leaders throughout America to step in and create new solutions when government fails. These leaders constantly confront challenges that affect stakeholder’s lives – employees, community residents, investors, etc. They look for tried-and-true approaches as well as creative new ones, and then apply them to resolve the situation. When they succeed, everyone benefits.
Mr. Shultz re-assumed the helm of Starbucks after the company stopped growing due to
overexpansion, the economic recession and other causes. He challenged the status quo,
adopted new approaches and turned the company around. And now with the company
back on track for growth, he’s taking this no-nonsense problem-solving approach and
applying it to societal problems.
We need more leaders to do this. As Chairman of a local CEO group for Vistage International (www.vistagenewyork.com), I have the opportunity to watch these business leaders confront challenges with creative approaches and produce impressive results. Imagine unleashing the potential problem solving skills not just of the 14,500 Vistage CEOs, but millions of other business leaders throughout the USA to take the initiative and develop creative solutions to the challenges people face, without being dragged into party politics. It’s what we need to do.
Enabling leaders to realize their ability to confront business challenges creatively is the first step toward engaging them to step outside the business realm and address societal challenges. That’s one of the two driving forces behind the newest venture that I’ve co-founded, LeaderSolutions.TV. It provides a forum through which business leaders can share how they confronted challenges creatively, and allow others to learn from their experiences. Listening to the many varied stories will undoubtedly inspire one another.
As leaders increasingly recognize their abilities to creatively attack their company problems, I hope they increasingly will step outside their businesses, and apply their drive, insights and energy to address societal challenges – just as Howard Schultz has done. I chose to gain psychological, legal and management skills many years ago to work within the government sector to make this world a better place. Yet, after a few years, I felt I could better use my creative skills to create new solutions within the private sector and inspiring young people by teaching in universities to do the same.
However, today, with government frozen, and time to solve our economic, energy and other challenges slipping away very quickly, I believe business leaders need to take the initiative in developing solutions to the societal problems and gaining consensus to implement them. While government is the problem, business leaders need to drive the solutions.