Real Leaders

If You Could Change the World What Would You Do?

Andrew Hewitt, Game Changers 500

You are changing the world. One way or the other what you do matters. That’s what I remind every member of every audience I speak to, every person I coach and frankly every person who will listen.

We are all connected… this is not some cosmic, New Age drivel but rather the evidence of brain science. Our brains are all wired together in a network of social neurons scientists call  ‘fields of consciousness.’ It’s true.

Even our unspoken opinions, our secret aspirations, our inner moral convictions are all being broadcast every waking moment. When social opinion changes and societies become more effective at enriching the lives of everyone it is because the critical mass of people value doing positive things that matter. It’s exciting that we’re coming to know the nuero-mechanisms that create culture change.

What is actually going on is that groups of people begin to adopt mental models that are like a new pair of eyeglasses. Through these lenses we begin to see clearly what was previously fuzzy. We see root causes of beliefs and practices that cause failure, frustration and suffering. And we see new solutions to persistent problems that open up opportunities we never thought possible.

We are living at a time of titanic struggle.

It’s a battle of ideals. On one side are the powerful forces of the status quo that believe we’ve created the best of all possible worlds. That’s right, they believe for all the inequities of opportunity, all the unsustainable practices that traumatize and degrade our environment, all the new business practices that create high stress work environments… that in spite of all this… it is the best we can do. Leaders who believe this swim in an ocean of self-justification.

On the other side are people who believe in massive, positive innovation.

These are people like Andrew Hewitt who created Game Changers 500 (above), which is a list of for-benefit companies, who integrate social and environmental goals into their legal bylaws and practical strategies. Companies on Andrew’s list include Patagonia which is famous for trying to minimize the harm they do to the environment and maximize the health and work-life balance of their employees.

But I am most interested in businesses that go far beyond minimizing harm. What inspires me are enterprises whose primary source of revenue comes from solving problems that matter. For instance, Bridget Hilton ‘stood up’ her new company, Jack’s Soap, in just 90 days. For every bar of luxurious, organic soap she sells she donates both bars of soap as well as education to the poor in developing nations so that they can stop the unnecessary deaths of 5,000 children a day who die from diseases that could be prevented by washing with soap. All this is very cool yet I am still frustrated. The pace of change is far too slow.

I believe this is true because we don’t have enough women leading our businesses and political institutions. Most people who attain high levels of leadership are hard power leaders. These hard power leaders are typically driven by competitiveness and self-interest. These are very powerful motives, which drive leaders to set very aggressive goals, drive employees to the limit and hold their feet to the fire. This kind of leadership is very effective at achieving short-term profits, which is why these kinds of leaders are so generously rewarded. It’s also exactly why the age of hard power has created an unsustainable future.

The male brain is geared for selfish aggressiveness. Perhaps that’s why over 99% of violent criminals are men. On the other hand, women’s brains are designed to think of ways of solving problems that are causing suffering, including others, and looking at the long-term consequences of today’s decisions. Women are actually naturally designed to innovate through collaboration.

Their pro-social brains are seeking long-term, holistic solutions rather than continuous personal advantage. The skills women use to drive success are called soft power. Competitive males rarely respect them.

Yet, the evidence is now very clear that the best run organizations that produce the best results are led by teams of men and women (at least 33% women) at the very top.

Women need to be engaged in senior positions involving both strategy and execution not just HR.  This blend of men and women create a synthesis of hard and soft power called Smart power.This is very rare.  In most organizations today women are being taught that if they want to reach the highest levels of leadership they need to act like men. This is completely crazy.

It is exactly the wrong thing to do. Heaven knows we don’t need more women leaders like Susan Cameron the CEO of the tobacco giant Reynolds American.  She is busy trying to increase the number of young women smokers in emerging nations as a sign of female empowerment. This is so immorally manipulative it is beyond my comprehension how she looks at herself in the mirror. We also need Sheryl Sandberg to shut the hell up about ‘leaning in.’ Those stupid words are simply code for ‘work like a man.’

I can’t seem to understand why she thinks the male pattern of leadership is the goal. I feel like she’s leading millions of young women straight off a cliff. As I told several hundred Qualcomm women leaders at their QWISE conference this past week… “You can either work 100% of the time or you can be happy. But you will never be happy working 100% of the time.”

What Sandberg is missing is that men do not experience the deep inner conflicts among work achievement, family responsibility and personal well-being. Oh I’m not saying that all men easily dismiss their families for the sake of work.

I’m only saying that the clear neurological evidence is that women experience much more high levels of stress over work-life balance issues then most men do.

The biological reason for this is obvious. For thousands of years women have been the nurturers while men have been hunters. Women who try to deny that impulse are usually plagued by constant inner gremlins of unresolved stress. So getting back to changing the world.

We need to change the mental model that we all hold about the goals of successful enterprises and how we lead employees to reach them.

This will not happen without more “real” women leaders.  Women who bring their strengths of customer and employee empathy, collaboration and inclusion in the longer-term view that include the greater good rather than just personal power. What my years of coaching women leaders has taught me is that although the boys club of business leadership creates a lot of invisible but powerful obstacles.


This work is the culmination of my 35 years of leadership development that I started with Stephen Covey in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I’ve teamed up with a remarkable group of women leaders, including former clients, that have co-designed the experience and will co-teach it to produce focused, individual transformation. This is only possible by addressing the totality of your mind, body and spirit to become the most effective leader you are designed to be as well as attain a sustained level of work-life harmony.


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