Being the Best Consultants for the World (2nd in the GRLI Series)

In my continuing series on the GRLI conference, below are some of the highlights from Monday’s pre-conference session which focused on the subject: “What is globally responsible advisory and consulting?” To date GRLI has had a predominately academic focus, although it has also attracted many business leaders and consultants. This pre-conference was the first gathering to examine how the GRLI organization might support the work of consultants dedicated to reshaping the purpose and role of business.

Allowing for the diversity of the group (15 or so with a rich variety of professional experience, worldviews, specializations, nationality/ethnicity, etc.), we spent a great deal of time in reflective conversation. This also gave us the chance to get to know each other and as the day went along some common themes began to emerge, which included:

  • Agreement on the “fundamentals” underlying our practice, e.g. the context of social justice and sustainability, a focus on shifting worldviews, and a mutual sense of global citizenship.
  • A focus on practice, e.g. our role as facilitators and enablers of dialogue and the array of methods, tools, and approaches which require skilled application.
  • Awareness of the internal/personal nature of this work, both as individuals (personal integrity; reflective practice; the self as instrument of change) and systemically (the necessity for collective awareness and reflection).
  • The need to find greater conceptual clarity on the many terms and ideas for which we many have common words, but lack common understanding.
  • An interest in better understanding the intersection of leadership, change, and the pressing issues of global sustainability and social justice.
  • Finally, an emerging interest in the GRLI as a “container,” community of practice, community of responsible action (and a variety of other terms) for consultants dedicated to the practice of globally responsible leadership. We agreed that this community could be available for those who wish to gather in relationship with others who shared (dare we say it?) a radical vision for change.

The conversation continues; however, here’s how we agreed to sum it up for the moment. The GRLI’s “tag line” is that it seeks to develop leaders who are not the best in the world, but the best for the world. Correspondingly, we agreed that we aspire not to be the best consultants in the world, but the best consultants for the world.

To close this blog, I have included below a few excerpts of the 2112 vision contained in the opening chapter of Management Education for the World, written by several of the founding members of GRLI (a combination of business school deans/faculty and business consultants):

Let us tell you a story that began a century ago – in the year 2012 – when globally responsible leadership had just started to emerge…After 200 years of intensive development, society had all the economic and technological capabilities necessary to enable 7 billion people to live on the planet. However, they had not focused on living well; more than a billion people were starving at that time…Not only that, but they held with the peculiar idea that you could design and maintain a system which delivered perpetual growth on a finite earth…

Interestingly, during this tumultuous period a group of people emerged who held a different view. They were working toward the idea of globally responsible leaders…Leadership in this new context was defined as being about sense-making, about understanding the real context in which a leader was working…[and] also about sense-giving…People started to explore the fundamental questions of purpose, and the purpose of the role of business in particular…

Since the second half of the twentieth century, people in management education and business schools in particular focused on creating diligent administrators [and] capable managers…Everybody was caught in the twentieth century paradigm of perpetual growth…a small group of people tried to do something about it…

The vision we propose represents not only an incremental shift but a radically new perspective of what management education for the future can look like…the deepest purpose of such a management education framework is to create and hold the space for an entirely new world of business to emerge. The world needs engaged, reflective and responsible entrepreneurs, managers and leaders…We believe it is the responsibility of management education to provide such leadership. We call it responsible leadership for a sustainable world.