We are experiencing a red and blue world. Politics are divisive, and it seeps into businesses when they make a statement. Nike is the latest. Although the ad includes Colin Kaepernick, quarterback and civil rights activist, the message is about dreaming big. While some are burning their Nike shoes and apparel, others are buying new Nike merchandise. Nike is experienced a 31 percent increase in online sales and just reported better-than-expected quarterly result.

In-N-Out Burger took a hit when it was discovered they contributed $20,000 to the California Republican Party. The California Democrat Party leader called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger. In-N-Out Burger stated that they also contributed to the Democrat Party. No real sin here, especially since many companies contribute to different political parties and campaigns.

We need to get a life and focus on meaning in life and work. Seriously.

CEO Activism: From the Sidelines to the Playing Field

CEO activism is here and unlikely to disappear. More to the point, it should not. Our legislators and too many office holders have let issues go unsolved. Worse, they politicize issues to the point of harm. We need sensibility and problem solvers. We need inspiration and aspiration to higher ideals. Business leaders are stepping up to the call.

BRANDfog, a digital reputation consulting firm for CEOs, conducted a survey that found the following:

  • 86 percent believe that CEOs who defend people’s rights are demonstrating great leadership
  • 72 percent expect the CEOs of brands I support to use social media to address the key social issues of our time

However, customers may make their future purchasing decisions based on a CEOs position on important issues. While 93 percent that they would likely buy more from a company that they agree with on social issues, 84 percent say that they may not. It is a toss-up.

As a reminder, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 64 percent say they want CEOs to take a stand on policy changes without waiting for the government.

With politicians failing, business leaders are called upon to act. We cannot thrive in a stalemated world. Bold leadership is required, and CEO activism is about solving problems and raising our standards of thought and conduct.

A Business Leader Calling: Stepping Up

Even with the noise of red and blue, business leaders can lead from the middle and bring us together again.

Why do business leaders and companies need to step up? Simply stated, corporations have civil rights. Through the court system, corporations gained rights, including property and liberty (e.g., speech, religious). With rights come responsibilities and corporations have both.

More to the point, when smaller groups form at two extremes of a spectrum, there is power in the middle. Many organizations have formed to energize the middle, and the messages and actions taken by business leaders can add to the shifts to the middle. The middle is about:

  • Creating a better life for as many as possible
  • Solving long-term problems in a supportable, meaningful way
  • Crafting a society that is inclusive and energized to vote, participate, and work for a better future

What do business leaders gain?

First, they use their position to not only guide and build a good company but also build a good society for their employees, customers, and stakeholders. Second, their business gains a better environment from which to hire from, sell into, and grow within. Across each, fulfillment excels, meaning individuals feel better about their work, home, and community.

I know this sounds altruistic, but it more possible than you may think. It takes an inner strength of business leaders to set the example and renew trust. I believe they have already shown this trait. Even with the noise of red and blue, business leaders can lead from the middle and bring us together again.


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A version of this was published on LinkedIn.

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