Elegant Business Leadership
by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura
Bill Gates, when he announced his impending retirement and intention to turn to full-time philanthropy, stated that he “needs to give back to the community.” This begs the question, as, for instance, renowned philosopher Tibor R. Machan asked in his article for Free-Market News Network(1): Why and what does he need to give back to the community? Has he taken something from the community? Have people lent him something which he needs to return?
Mr. Gates has already given immensely to the world community through his business. Very few individuals in history have ever given as much and in such a magnitude. In the process he has taken nothing from the community nor has he been lent anything from others. Just as a great architect such as Christopher Alexander builds magnificent buildings, so has Mr. Gates built a majestic business. Just as the architect deserves and receives payment for his creative work, so does Mr. Gates deserve and receive payment for his creative work.
That he worked very hard and remained a consistent winner in a game of win-or-lose is not his fault. It was neither his genius nor mission in life to change the structure and nature of the game itself. He was the last tycoon of the Industrial Age whose products happened to be requisite tools of the advancing Information Age. Regardless of how we judge the way he conducted his business, we can never deny the tremendous contribution he has made to the world. He should never feel that he “needs to return something to the community” because he has never taken anything from the community.
Thus far, Mr. Gates’ giving to the world has been done in the context of trade, which is based on the principle of equal giving and re-giving. Now, by turning to full-time philanthropy, he is only shifting the mode of giving from that based on trade to that based on gift-giving—from that within the context of market economy to that within the context of gift economy.
As a form of giving, gift-giving or philanthropy is not inherently morally superior to trade. Trade assumes and requires that the parties involved be capable of creating and producing values for equal exchange. We do not enter into transactions with a party whom we do not consider trustworthy or capable. Trade is thus based on mutual respect.
Philanthropy is a type of giving in which the recipient creates and produces values that will be given to people other than (but not excluding) the giver. Whereas in trade the recipient directly gives back to the giver, in philanthropy the recipient is expected to give back to a community that may not include the giver. Therefore, each form of giving has its own place.
You and I who live in an affluent part of the world can afford to buy Microsoft products, but those who suffer from poverty in Africa cannot afford them or may not even need them. What they need instead is food, shelter, medicine, hospitals, schools, economic infrastructures, and functioning governments. Philanthropy is an appropriate form of giving in this instance. But, unless the recipients of this kind of philanthropic giving eventually become self-sufficient and capable of entering into trade relations with the rest of the world, our philanthropic efforts will produce chronic dependency on the part of the recipients.
The visionary spiritual philosopher Walter Russell (1873-1963) discovered a hidden spiritual law behind Newton’s famous Third Law of Motion. Whereas Newton states: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1686), Russell states: Every action is simultaneously balanced by an equal and opposite reaction, and repeated sequentially in reversed polarity (A New Concept of the Universe, 1953).
What is important is the reversal of polarity. That is, in the process of giving, the recipient also must become the giver. Then, every instance of giving generates two instances of re-giving—simultaneously and sequentially. Then, 1 + 1 equals not 2 but 4. Every time you give, you receive twice, once from your own act of giving and once from the other to whom you give. This is what synergy is. This is how we create spiritual and material abundance in the world.
Some business leaders, such as John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, integrate both forms of giving in their business models. They are a new breed of business leaders who not only give to the world through trade and philanthropy but also multiply the effect of their giving by creating a synergy between these two modes of giving. In their business model, trade and philanthropy form a complementary unity, and their business becomes a unified field of value creation and value giving.
Such businesses I call Elegant Business and the kind of leadership required for the creation of Elegant Business I call Elegant Business Leadership(2). Mr. Mackey is a good example of Elegant Business Leadership, while the Whole Foods Market, combined with Mr. Mackey’s various philanthropies, beautifully exemplifies Elegant Business. Elegant Business, with its integration of market and social entrepreneurship, is transforming the very nature of the game of business.
Business is a creative and therefore spiritual endeavor. Great entrepreneurs enter the field of business in the same way great artists enter the field of art. With their business creation, entrepreneurs express their spiritual desire for self-realization, evolutionary passion for self-fulfillment, and creative vision of a new world. The creation of business is as creative as any creation in art. Their business is their artwork.
Today we are entering the age of Elegant Business and Elegant Business Leadership in which the true success of a business is judged by the degree of its elegance—the quality that emerges when wholeness, integrity, balance, abundance, grace, and generosity are present within the organization and in its relationship to the world and the planet at large.(3)
1. www.FreeMarketNews.com. “Bill Gates, Please Shut Up Already” by Tibor R. Machan, Monday, June 19, 2006.
2. The term “elegant business” was first coined by Southern California Vision In Action Business Consortium member Linda Watkins of Watkins Consulting Group at a monthly meeting. However, the concept of Elegant Business briefly outlined above is the author’s.
3. Vision In Action is in a process of developing Elegant Business 500—500 most elegant corporations in the world that combine business (free-market economic philosophy) and philanthropy (gift-giving economic philosophy) for the benefit of humanity as a whole. Vision In Action will work with Elegant Business 500 companies and other like-minded non-profit organizations to make definitive changes in the world, especially to eliminate poverty and create abundance.
© 2006, Yasuhiko Genku Kimura