Monday, May 17th, 2021

Agility and Corporate Responsibility

Image44I was watching TV earlier tonight and saw Stephen Colbert interview Jeff Schwartz, CEO of Timberland. What stood out in Colbert’s bantering interview (besides Jeff’s boots) was this CEO’s passionate commitment to corporate responsibility. Made me want to learn more about his guy and his company. Elsewhere, Schwartz has said:

“We must consider the consequences of our actions not on tomorrow, but on the world we leave behind for generations to come. And while making a conscious effort to reduce our negative impact on the environment and our communities is a good first step, doing ‘less bad’ isn’t enough. We’ve got to start doing more good – to try to repair some of the damage that has already been done and invest in positive, sustainable change.”

In doing our research for the book, Stephen Josephs and I came up with a somewhat unexpected finding: The more agile a leader is (the more capable they are of leading effectively amid rapid change and complexity), the more likely they are to have a personal commitment to social and environmental responsibility that influences the leadership initiatives they take. In fact, this commitment tends to grow stronger and stronger as managers develop through the five levels of leadership agility. (I just heard about another research study that arrived at the same conclusions. If I get more details, I’ll post something about that study here).

Why this connection between agile leadership and corporate social responsibility? When people grow into what we call the “post-heroic” levels of agility, their “situational awareness” expands to take in a much larger context, their “sense of purpose” deepens to take into account their impact other human beings with whom they have no direct relationship, their understanding of others’ situations deepens, and they develop a greater desire and ability to work collaboratively with their stakeholders. In addition, their ability to understand seemingly paradoxical realities (e.g., that social and environmental responsibility can enhance and sustain business performance) increases.

Stephen Josephs and I enjoyed the interviews we did for the book so much that we’d like to continue interviewing highly agile leaders. It would be great to have an opportunity to interview Jeff Schwartz and find out more about the way he leads his company. If you know someone you think might be a “highly agile leader,” email me at – and we’ll see what we can do.

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