Discovery Leadership Masterclass Series with Frank Adu Anim: Becoming stewards of the future (2)


…Beyond the Boardroom, Business and Decisions

It is believed that the current way of thinking addresses how decisions could affect the future. The maxim that decisions we make in our lifetime should result in a better future means that stewards of the future in our companies must be courageous and wise in their decision-making. Leadership ought to forget short-termism and take the long-term view about how we should treat our world so that we can leave it better for future generations.

Today, corporate leaders are becoming more concerned about the challenges facing our planet and its inhabitants; as such, many are now convinced they must fundamentally change how their companies operate in order to be sustainably effective and remain better stewards of the planet. Climate change, water shortages, decreasing biodiversity, unequal distribution of wealth and economic opportunity, social unrest and cyber-attacks are among the acknowledged threats to the sustainability of businesses and increases the insecurity being faced living all over the globe.

To this effect, it is important to emphasise that the Holy Scriptures record that God created man and woman to govern His creation, cultivate its produce with excellence and live off its abundance, which is being abused. Forming man from the very minerals of the earth, God intends to connect man’s physical existence with the environment from which he was brought forth. The trees that provide shade from the sun also supply men and women with the oxygen needed to breathe. Conversely, trees survive from the carbon dioxide that humans and all fauna exhale. The symbiotic relationship between mankind and the environment is undeniable, and so is their awesome responsibility to maintain faithful stewardship of the earth.

Stewardship in this sense is to ensure the well-being and perpetuation of God’s established structures. By maintaining a way of life that is conducive to the optimal performance of earth’s systems, men and women can faithfully steward creation and preserve its resources for future generations to enjoy. Some examples of stewardship include using materials that safely biodegrade, reducing waste through recycling and considering the environmental effect in developing inventions and infrastructure. With an appreciation for God’s handiwork, we can develop sustainable solutions that promote a thriving environment in which men and women can enjoy God and his creation.

Besides, what we are becoming is never fully known to us ahead of time. As stewards of the future, we live in constant opportunity to discover ourselves and our world in its becoming. Somewhere out there, beyond what we have known, a new world awaits that is beyond our wildest dreams. Stewards of the future intuit that world and live in service of its unfolding.

Stewardship, in its highest form, means tapping into the greatest potential waiting to unfold and letting that potential show us the way forward. Stewards of the future live in service of that ever-evolving potential and have no attachment to specific forms or outcomes. Stewardship entails a profound understanding and acceptance of the challenges that result from the organisation’s interdependence with the societal and ecological contexts in which it operates, and of what it takes to embrace the challenges of being a force for building a viable future. This article dares to ask ‘why’ business leaders should embrace stewardship in the current climate change situation and ensure decisions transcend beyond boardroom decisions and commitments. A shift in approach and mindsets would represent a fundamental change for the corporate world and portend a better planet.

Beyond the Boardroom: The Pathway to a Sustainable Organisation and World

Today, corporations play central roles in communities, nations and the world, and their unprecedented access to resources and power positions them to become “stewards of the future of humanity and the earth”, and ethically obligated to act as such. Stewards not only make responsible use of that which they hold in trust, but also leave it in an enhanced condition for future generations. But to become responsible stewards, profound changes in the way business executives and their corporations act are required and important to adhere to.

There is much we can learn from companies that are already on the path to stewardship. Making real progress is possible and depends on expanded aspirations for corporate stewardship and new assumptions about what ‘good business’ ought to be. Collaborating with other stakeholders and sectors to build organisational systems governed by different principles and a new sense of equity and justice, diversity and inclusivity are much advocated for sustainable business beyond the obvious key performance imperatives of growth and profits.

However, while some forward-looking companies have spearheaded excellent social and environmental initiatives, it is clear that focusing on long-term sustainable effectiveness rather than short-term business outcomes calls for showing how corporations can use their power to help create a viable future of the organisation linked to deepening the concern for humanity. All organisations ought to learn to think in terms of how the global social, economic and environmental system operates as a whole, and how these dimensions of society are impacted from the operations of such organisations.

Beyond the Profit Concern

A business must have reason to exist beyond that of making money and maximising shareholders’ value. Profit cannot be the sole goal, vision or purpose of an organisation. An organisation that posts great year-end results does not automatically earn the status of being a great company unless it’s ethically responsible.

Profit is temporary and can be wiped out in an instant. Profit is an output and a symptom of success and not the cause. A true vision for a business rests on foundations of both purpose and values. The organisation has to be passionate about how the business impact lives and changes the fortunes of its stakeholders. Without a clear foundation, a business will never be truly strategic beyond its profit motives – which ensures businesses affirm their core values and purposes through the discovery and introspection of its functions to create a unified and holistic satisfaction of all its stakeholders. With purposes beyond profit, businesses create a strong culture and ethos within the business that eventually provides a navigational compass to steer its efforts in remaining committed to becoming great stewards of the business and planet.

Beyond Growth Ambitions

New trends highlight a return to becoming corporate stewards from the traditional business changes conditions for productivity growth. However, beyond the business growth imperative is the call for a new approach in how the business supports ecosystems speaks to business leaders to embrace the notion for becoming corporate stewards. While growth is not the only area of focus for business leaders, it is appropriate to recognise the great efforts by corporate organisations to improve the performance of their business, citing ambitions to boost resilience, work-life balance, employee wellbeing and sustainability. To this effect, business leaders strategise for efficiency; introducing new products, services and improving the use of technology, which are all linked to productivity.

Growth is planned based on historical data and future projections. Growth requires the careful use of company resources such as finances and personnel. The needed and desired performance results to be reached are by means outside the present products and markets. Objectives are identified by a direct translation of business goals from the growth strategy. The growth objectives guide decision-making so a firm can reduce the gap between forecasts of present products’ and markets’ profit contribution from the overall objectives: Business discussions must transcend meeting the growth imperative.

Beyond the Efficiency and Resiliency of Organisations: Corporate Stewardship

If corporate leaders, directors and investors fail to see themselves as stewards of the future, they are letting down their employees, customers and suppliers. To say we live in interesting times is an understatement, for the geopolitical landscape of business has never looked more complex and worrying than now.

Obviously, it is acknowledged that in times of great difficulty and trouble people look to leadership. Hence, boards of directors ought to think beyond short-term profit to other critical objectives and shareholder needs if their companies and the planet are to survive the collective challenges we face and go on to thrive in the future.

This critical pathway calls for deep concern by boards of directors to consider all the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities in play that connect all these complex geopolitical factors. By this, there is a need for leaders who have the necessary information and insights into pursuing good corporate governance practices, aligning performance to strict protection and accountability to step up.

Effective corporate stewardship works in a variety of capacities to provide strategies and goals for an organisation, oversee its performance and general good for business survival and resilience. While a corporate leadership role can be challenging and demanding, it can also allow for making an impact on organisations and securing them in a prestigious position. These professionals may oversee the operations of a business and create strategies and goals to survive the now into the future.

Looking for Forward-Thinking leadership

To succeed in the quest for corporate stewardship is to see corporate leaders effectively work toward improving themselves and the companies they run for a turnaround. Forward-thinking corporate leaders are extremely passionate about the company and are motivated to improve it.

Corporate stewardship demands that leadership engages employees and other executives, inspiring them to work beyond serving their own parochial interest and satisfy the collective good of the organisation, its stakeholders and the planet. It requires leaders to motivate customers, investors and the larger community which the organisation impacts.

Forward-thinking leaders inspire thoughts while exuding vision, belief and passion. They are embodied in their shining light in the dark for all to follow; and creating passion, contagious belief in a better and more sustainable future for all. They demonstrate this by inspiring the inner core of those they lead, defining a new reality and making possible what seems impossible and unimaginable in the first place.

They connect and identify with those they lead to unleash the full power of passion, tenacity and perseverance. They build connections on reciprocal trust and engender the absolute conviction of their teams that the leader has his/her team’s best interests at heart, and at the same time convey the belief that the organisation has what it takes to deliver excellence and protection for the environment within which the business operates.

Sustainable Future through Effective Corporate Stewardship

Imagine one owned a property and rented it out to tenants for a period of time, and upon moving in the tenants found the place clean and in perfect working order. Stewards of the future are willing to let what they have created dissolve in service of the next evolution of potential, even when the form it is to take is not yet clear. Stewards of the future recognise the interconnectedness of all things, and they seek to protect and preserve.

Conversely, as the population increased, the destructive processes of modern inventions have had an exponential effect on the earth. In a world that has been impacted by serious destruction, there is always more that can be done to ensure a mindset of good stewardship and redemption. It starts with educating people with sensible information in researching and implementing new technologies that cooperate with the earth’s systems to promote good stewardship.

Recently, environmental stewardship has become more of an issue in the minds of people. There is a push to encourage green building initiatives and improve air quality in densely populated cities, for instance. Local municipalities have implemented recycling for glass and metals, all aiming at good and responsible efforts of showing commitment and an appreciation for protection of the planet and future. Discovery ESG and Sustainability Summit 2022 equally sought to highlight the significant concern for corporate institutions to look at embracing, fast, the ESG sustainability framework to remain responsible businesses as well as helping to save the planet.

The way forward?

Crucially, companies must demonstrate superior social or environmental value for their external stakeholders while maintaining or improving internal bottom-line targets – a goal sometimes attainable only in the long run. The questions every business should ask are: does our fundamental business enhance society? Do any of our products and activities diminish that goal, and if so how can we mitigate or reverse them? Essentially, the questions which can be solved at the boardroom level.

However, to maximise the positive impact on social and environmental systems for corporate survival and planet protection, companies must develop coherent ESG strategies and frameworks. This should be an essential part of the great mission of every organisation and the predominant mandate of boardroom discussions. To this effect, companies well-known for best-practices operate coordinated and interdependent programmes and initiatives that create shared value for society and the firm.

As such, organisations must become providers of meaningful policies and strategies which seek to address the world’s challenges of climate change, unemployment, diversity, pollution and equitable distribution of wealth in the context of a healthy and sustainable global environment. This business leaders must do despite the immediate interests of their shareholders – because the future of those investors and everyone else depends on creating a sustainable planet.

Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.


Frank is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group. He is an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management practices for Discovery Leadership Masterclass.

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