“Genki” is a word my Japanese colleagues frequently use to describe me. They tell me it means I am cheerful and fun, but I’m pretty sure it is a secret code meaning that I’m noisy, wild, and just a tad scary. Nevertheless somewhere around five dozen people turned up for the book launch party for the Japanese version of “Scrappy Project Management” last night, and they all seemed pretty “genki” to me. One of the party guests, who was a graduate of one of our six month Global Leadership Development Programs this past year gave a rousing congratulations speech. The highlight was when he asked the audience to participate with him as he “challenged convention” in such a speech, removed his suit jacket, rolled up the sleeves on his crisp business shirt, and then got everyone flinging their arms in the air while shouting “Exciting!” to help express his feeling about the whole book lalapalooza. His final wish was that I become a billionaire, but I’m not sure if he meant dollars, yen, or rupees.
Naturally this is a dream come true for me, a daughter of a welder from the suburbs of Pittsburgh who took 2 years of typing in high school because I thought I might grow up to be a secretary. (Heck, we don’t even use that word anymore in the Silicon Valley! If I called one of my administrative assistant buddies a secretary she (or he) would bonk me upside the head with a coffee pot, and I’d have to make my own coffee, too, in order to assure it wasn’t poisoned!) Some of my colleagues from the Silicon Valley who work with me on these Global Leadership and Management Programs sent video greetings. Shouts of delight errupted from the crowd when partygoers recognized consultants they knew from the programs they attended. Enthusiasm was running high through the entire evening, so I took a chance in my closing speech to suggest that this kind of energy, vitality and enthusiasm might have an important role to play in transforming our world.
The crowd’s mood was supportive, elevated by a good portion of Kirin beer. (the HR person from Kirin was there, so we sure weren’t going to be serving Suntory at this bash!) Although I’m not a huge fan of using Power Points to MAKE a point, I’ve recently started using a technique I learned from a book called “Presentation Zen” in which some vivid pictures form the background for the speaker’s message. First thing I showed was a composite picture of the world from space, showing the lights visible from space when each part of the world is in darkness. “What is this?”, I asked? “It’s a map of where your customers!”, I told these global business leaders. I figure that if people have enough money to keep lights burning that can be seen from outer space then they must have enough money to purchase the products and services of these businesses.
As I ranted in my shocking pink suit about the possibilities for global transformation I further suggested that being a global business leader meant solving global problems profitably. (Of course there are many worthy causes that don’t earn a profit for those noble souls who devote their lives to them. But business people need to create a sustainable financial model in the present moment that supports their continued existence, or they won’t be around to do any good in the future.) I asked the now slightly swaying guests to consider whether there might be something that could be done to change these hideous facts about our earth:
- The consumption of oil and coal has been climbing relentlessly in the past 40 years, while renewable energy sources have barely been tapped.
- Nearly 1 in 10 people still lack access to clean drinking water.
- A child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related illness.
- Many of the top ten causes of death worldwide which are prevalent among high-income populations are caused by unhealthy eating, or eating too much, while
- Every 3 or 4 seconds another person dies of hunger, and 75% of those are children.
What’s a socially conscientious business person to do? Figure out how to profit from solving these problems, and get busy solving them! Afterall, by the time you finish reading this sentence another person has died of hunger, and another person with unhealthy eating habits has scarfed down a fatty fast-food burger, setting them further down the path of joining the 30 or 40% of Americans who are obese, or at least the 60% or so who are overweight. (From personal experience I can attest to the fact that it’s impossible to lose even 5 pounds (around 2 kilograms) once you gain them, so best to pass that burger by as you’ll be struggling to work off that fat for the rest of your bulbous life.)
Finally I reminded everyone that almost 60% of people on the planet live in Asia, so there’s a pressing need for people in Asia to step up and take the responsibility for leading the transformation of our planet to a place where everyone can look forward to a a happy, healthy day with plenty to eat (but not too much!), clean water to drink, and plenty of renewable energy to keep their iPhone charged up and their lights burning – visible from space at night.
Leadership is not about control or domination. Leadership is a responsibility to serve those you are leading. I’m not letting the rest of the world off the hook, but I think a country like Japan, which has the #2 GDP of all the countries of the world, has a very big part to play in the transformation that our world so desperately awaits. And with the combination of values I’ve observed in my colleagues from Japanese multi-national companies, among which are a willingness to work incredibly hard, a feverish commitment to excellence, a sincere willingness to subjugate individual well-being for the sake of the greater good, and an unquenchable passion for making a positive difference, I definitely want these folks on the “Let’s Make the World a Better Place” team.
All that remains of the book launch party is a stack of empty beer bottles and my memories of that magical evening. But I can’t help thinking about what it would be like to celebrate making a significant positive difference on the planet through our Global Leadership and Management Programs. Now THAT would be something TRULY worth shouting “EXCITING!” for . . .
Who knows how much more time we have. Let’s get busy! – Kimberly in Tokyoby