CEOs lead by using their brains: they think about how to generate revenues, they ponder company vision and they constantly think about how to advance and grow their organization. Competitive analysis, differentiation, profitability, sustainable growth and innovation. Whew! Heady heads! And that's good stuff going on in the brains of business leaders.
But in a down economy, you can tell real leadership by what is going on in executives' hearts. Shifting focus from profits to philanthropy is easy in good times, but in this bleak economic landscape, it takes a CEO with the right stuff to have head and heart operating at full steam.
Case in point, I read a recent blog post in Fast Company about Seth Merrin, CEO of Liquidnet receiving an award from the Committee to Advance Corporate Philanthropy (co-founded by the Paul Newman Foundation).
Now, Mr. Merrin is a millionaire many times over. Actually we can use the "B" word: billionaire is more appropriate. But instead of just focusing on racking up more consonants in front of his "illions," he focused on his philanthropic zeal and applied time, money, energy, and innovative thinking to his Global Social Engagement Program.
He partnered with a youth village project that is a residential community for orphans in Rwanda, in response to the genocide going on in this African country.
“Through the Rwanda program, we are pursuing a holistic approach to a large problem with an innovative solution. We are giving orphans a chance at life, creating the next generation of leaders for the country,” explains Merrin. With support from Liquidnet, the village provides food, medical care, and psychological services to the children, in addition to a school that is equipped with computers and wireless internet. “The youth village is a place of promise and perhaps a beacon of hope in Africa. That’s its potential,” says Merrin.
In a Forbes interview, Mr. Merrin has said, today's philanthropy is about getting your hands dirty and making a difference. I would certainly say that you have Mr. Merrin! Bravo! Leadership lesson for us all. All executives can take a cue from Mr. Merrin and lead not just with heads and minds, but with hearts as well.
And getting a little dirt under your fingernails wouldn't hurt either!