The “five bests” of becoming a world-class, values-based organization is a journey. The foundation of that process is becoming your best self and continues through best team, best partner, and best investment. The culmination is becoming a best citizen (I use the word “culmination” loosely since the quest to achieve the five bests is a never-ending one and each best is interdependent on the other four.)
Being a best citizen means moving beyond the organization and its goals to take on the challenge of making the world a better place. Rather than expecting others to do the hard work, best citizens (individuals and organizations) ask themselves: “What can I do to make a difference?” This is the epitome of putting values into action for the sake of the community, society, and the world at large.
Often, when we think of large-scale, global problems and challenges, we wonder what “those guys” (a gender neutral term) are willing to do to solve them. Those guys include government, philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). We expect that “those guys” will take ownership of the problems and address them.
As values-based leaders, we realize that “those guys” are not just “out there.” They are right here. In fact, we are those guys!
Becoming a best citizen is a vision for each of us to see that we are responsible for making the world a better place in big and small ways. We are committed to playing a positive role in changing even one thing, no matter how small or locally focused it may be.
Increasingly, corporations are taking social responsibility seriously, committing considerable sums of money as well as their expertise in areas in which they have an affinity. For example, a healthcare company may become involved in global health issues. A food or agribusiness company may address nutritional needs in a certain area of the world. Such involvement allows corporations to become socially responsible best citizens in the communities and countries in which they operate. These organizations may also commit funding or other resources to support important global initiatives (thereby becoming not only a best citizen, but also a best partner in these undertakings).
On a smaller scale, a local company or a group of individuals may support a cause in a particular community, such as by fundraising, or they may become actively engaged by volunteering.
And, there are the stellar examples of people with a vision who make it their mission to take on a global challenge. One such person is Andrew Youn, co-founder of One Acre Fund. After graduating with his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2006, Andrew recruited a team to take on the huge task of addressing poverty and hunger among East African farmers. Today, One Acre Fund serves more than 200,000 farm families Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and other African countries.
There is no shortage of problems in the world that need to be addressed. Some are global, some are regional, and some are local. As a best citizen, you ask yourself what you can do to address the problem. How can you become one of “those guys” willing to step up to the challenge? This is what values-based leadership in action, ultimately, is all about.