The Age of Enlightenment: A Higher Purpose to Business

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The focus of business has always been to make a profit. However, there seems to be a new breed of CEO arising. This new generation of executives naturally wants to achieve high earnings and revenue, as did its predecessors, but a twin goal that is just as important has emerged. These new CEOs want to do good. They want to make the world better whilst they make money. Can profit and higher purpose mix successfully? The trending answer in today’s executive offices is yes.

Chief Awareness

Enlightenment, to many, refers to an intellectual movement in Europe during the late 17th and 18th centuries that stressed reason and individualism over tradition. The term also can colloquially refer to a state gained after acquiring special knowledge or wisdom. Both usages can be applied to those modern CEOs who want to change things for the better. How will they do it?

  • They see revenue as more than mere cash.
  • They are able to visualize their company 50 years from now.
  • They are constantly evolving and seeking new knowledge.

These executives are big-picture thinkers who, through their positions of authority as well as the strength of their personal philosophies, can inspire those around them to also value and desire higher, more meaningful purposes, and then to take action to achieve those lofty goals. These executives become positive influencers.

Thought Boss

Progressive CEOs may commit to long-term service both as executives and community benefactors because they truly are confident in the sustainability of their businesses and beliefs. They work to make a difference right where they live, and their help is multifaceted. Certainly, direct donations support organizations seeking to improve lives.

However, these progressive individuals also advocate for groups with the surrounding communities, and they take direct action to get others involved in helping. Through their resources and the strength of their convictions, open-minded executives encourage others to focus on positive change and actually work to bring it about. Thus these executives become transformation leaders.

Ways Open-Minded Executives Help

Free-thinking CEOs may get involved with a number of community-oriented causes. A good example is Donald Burns. The Donald Burns Foundation, created in 1985, supports many different organizations, including animal rescue, protection, and welfare; local preservation societies; uplifting programs for those with life-threatening illnesses; food delivery and preparation for the gravely ill; AIDS support; and assistance to gay and lesbian political candidates. Mr. Burns has been able to meld energetic corporate endeavors with personal convictions and, one might even say, morals and a sense of duty to give back.

Such support not only directly benefits community and national organizations, but it also increases visibility and raises awareness among the general population for the needs these organizations serve. In turn, it does increase awareness of the executives’ businesses, but open-minded CEOs seeking balance turn this logical sequence into a positive cycle that benefits many throughout the community. Such a chain of events is mutually beneficial.

Qualities of an Enlightened CEO

Progressive executives are as individual as their corporate interests and situations, but they do share some important traits that drive them to work for positive change in their communities. These traits include:

  • Living by their values
  • Believing that sustainability and positive efforts work
  • Trusting other people
  • Operating with a cooperative mentality
  • Acting from a moral compass
  • Maintaining sustainability and positive actions under stress and over time

Progressive CEOs can effect positive change in organizations through monetary donations, of course, but they also may influence those who work with and for them to care enough about these causes to donate their time and energies to help. A good example of this kind of corporate influence is direct employee encouragement. Some corporations make it easy for their employees to take positive actions by providing approved time off to assist community organizations.

Why They Do It

There are no laws ordering corporations and executives to give back to their communities. The most cynical may quickly point out that high-profile support of social causes raises profits because it improves donors’ reputations. However, the story does not end here. The entire paradigm in which progressive CEOs operate has shifted.

There is now recognition of local challenges, and there is more room for progressive leaders to emerge and resonate with this atmosphere. While the needs may not be new, the willingness to admit they exist is. Past generations have often ignored causes and needs. Today, however, progressive CEOs like Don Burns with resources and values are no longer just along for the ride. They are increasingly taking action to drive positive change.

A Good Way to Live

A new generation of enlightened CEOs is taking positive action and stepping onto the front lines to bring about positive social and community change. They support wide-ranging causes from animal welfare to local historical preservation to make their communities better places to live for every person—and for every animal. They go beyond donations to actively promote positive change. Yes, they still want corporate profits, but they also have visions of a better way of life for all.

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