A new leadership model emerges, and it is business leader activism. Business leaders are engaged in issues from gun control to gender discrimination to other societal issues. In a recent Marketplace story, they highlighted how this is being called the solution economy – “business, government, philanthropy, social enterprises and foundations converging to solve public problems.”

When problems are unsolved or issues discriminate, business leaders have stepped up while political leader have remained silent or divisive.

business leadersQuestioning Business Leader Activism

Some raise questions about whether business leaders should be involved in these issues. In a comment, an individual asked, “Do you want Whole Foods in charge of your food supply safety and Aetna deciding which public health crises merit responses?” Part of her point is that government is not the enemy, and partnerships with government is a preferred model.

Profit is the underlying mission of a business, and a profit-only model can drive decisions that discriminate, benefitting a few over the many. Good leadership is essential, and profit is good as it enables new jobs, products, expansion, growth, and opportunity. Additionally, more companies are expanding their mission beyond just profit, calling it the triple-bottom-line by incorporating profit, planet, and people. I take it a step further to include three more – purpose, problem-solving, and progress.

Being skeptical can be indispensable when it delivers accountability. However, business can be a force for good and can be problem solvers for progress. While cities and some states are playing greater roles in crafting solutions, the Federal government is stalled and more interested in self-preservation than democracy preservation. Common ground problem solving is scarce in too many areas.

Business Leaders and Society

When we think about society, the first element that comes to mind is citizens. As citizens, we play a key role, and we need to continue to step up to our responsibility of voting, being engaged in community conversations and actions, and hold elected officials accountable.

As we move to other elements, our institutions arise, along with the elected representatives, civil servants, and political appointees that help deliver services to make our society work. Government at all levels – city, county, state, and nation – play a key role. We need to recognize the fundamental role of government.

Charitable, social cause, and social good organizations help fill in the gaps and deliver services to help people in the challenges they face and the problems that hit them at the worse times. Goodness springs from the people doing good work and contributing to support people in need or facing an issue unaddressed.

We do not live in an ideal world. Realistically, when one part of society slacks or fails, another needs to rise to fill the hole. We are in this situation now.


In this mix are for-profit businesses. Businesses employ individuals and create products and services that, hopefully, deliver a benefit to their customers. In their base operations, society is better when good businesses do their thing. Just as citizens, government, and other organizations can do more to make society advance, business can too. Business leaders need to be more activist-oriented in their words and deeds.

If we lived in an ideal world, each element of society would exceed in their responsibilities. However, we do not live in an ideal world. Realistically, when one part of society slacks or fails, another needs to rise to fill the hole. We are in this situation now. Even without reality, we need to remember that each part of society needs to be more active in their responsibility. Maybe it is evolution, but business leaders are finding their footing in doing good more often than before.

Should Business Be Involved in Policy?

Let’s return to the original question:  Should business be involved in policy? My answer is yes. Business is a key part of our society, and business leaders need to use their voice and platform to discuss policy issues in a thoughtful, civil, courageous, empathetic, and results-oriented way. I believe that business leaders should be setting this example within their organizational culture by hosting and facilitating these conversations. I believe that, by doing this, we add a higher level to our citizenship responsibility, and we create a more engaged business culture, too.

Do we want Whole Foods in charge of our food supply or Aetna determining which health crisis to address? We do not, but we also need to realize they already play a role in these areas. Having the business leaders engaged in policy discussions about food supply is a needed voice and perspective. The same goes for business leaders within Aetna on health policy.

Business leader activism has been the missing element in society, and we need more business leaders engaged in policy conversations and needs.

Are you ready to be a business leader activist?


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Business leaders are playing a bigger role in society by engaging in and promoting policy. While some question their role, business leader activism is a needed role.