The Noble Leader Project
- DEFINITION: A leader who exhibits superiority of not only Mind, but also of Character and Morals (from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary’s definition of “noble”).
- DESCRIPTION: Noble leaders are different from traditional leaders, in
- How they SEE reality, including the interconnection of everything,
- How they THINK about problems and opportunities,
- How they FEEL about their role & the company,
- Who they ARE (their Being – their presence, their connection)
All these differences inform their actions – and enhance their leadership.
- RESEARCH: We are Surveying 40 CEOs and business owners globally who “appear to be” noble leaders – to explore what drives them, how they lead and the impact they are having – on companies, on employees, on whole industries – and on Capitalism itself.
- BOOK: The Noble Leader, a book based on this research, is being written by Yale classmates and business colleagues Darwin Gillett & Ken Bardach
- PROGRAM: An executive development program will be developed based on the book, and will be offered to business schools and corporations for senior executives that will help them develop and support Noble Leaders.
To learn more about The Noble Leader Project, click the links below.
More About the Book
Why Are We Writing the Book?
What is Noble Leadership?
WHO are the Authors?
The Survey of CEOs and Business Owners
Our CEO Survey List
Presentations on Noble Leadership
Our Vision of Success
We Welcome Your Assistance
More About the Book
The Noble Leader
(How Enlightened Leaders Are
Making Employees & Companies Better[i]
and in the Process, Transforming Capitalism)
OVERVIEW: We are developing a book on business leadership with the working title, The Noble Leader (TNL). TNL will build upon Darwin Gillett’s earlier book, Noble Enterprise (NE), which has won acclaim as an important work for both students and practitioners of leadership. Though admired by most people who read it, it was not widely purchased.
MARKETING: With an effective marketing program for TNL, however, we believe that TNL could be very successful in a marketplace where book sales are high, popularity lasts long, and purchasers often buy several leadership books at once. We plan to get guidance on marketing from a literary agent.
The Primary Market:
#1 Market: CEOs and other leaders who want some fresh thinking on leadership, want inspiring stories from other Noble Leaders, and want to “make a difference” not just for shareholders, but for employees and society.
#2 Market: Business Schools and other Executive Education providers that teach courses/programs on Leadership, Business Ethics, Managing (& Developing) Human Capital (including improving Employee Morale) and Social Issues (how a leader can address them in the business)
#3 Market: Consultants & Leadership Coaches who want to be “up” on the latest Leadership Thinking, and want to use that Thinking in serving their Clients.
Our formal Book Proposal spells out the needs in each market which the book will address.
The authors have considerable experience participating in, and serving each of these three markets. There are ready avenues (such as journals and associations) through which we can reach each of these four markets.
FOCUS of the book: Whereas NE focused on the business institution – organizational design, structure, and processes – that lead to success, TNL will examine the business leader. Using examples and data collected from 40 leaders of sustainable high performance companies around the world (whom we suspect are Noble Leaders), TNL will identify what it is about these leaders that enable them to motivate and inspire employees and achieve long-term superior business performance in an ethical and sustainable manner.
OUR BACKGROUNDS: We have worked in and consulted to leading organizations; and we have taught in degree and non-degree executive programs for leading business schools. In Ken’s case, he has served as Associate Dean and Director of Executive Education for five leading U.S.-based business schools. In Dar’s case he has served as Director of Corporate Planning for a Fortune 500 company, as president/CEO of a small manufacturing company and as a consultant to several large, multinational corporations. Both authors have strong international experience. We each graduated from Yale and earned MBAs (Dar from the U. of Chicago, Ken from NYU).
Our VIEW of Leadership in Practice: With this extensive experience, both authors became fascinated that so many business leaders are playing the wrong game or at times are using only a small percentage of their capability. We believe that it is possible to “play the right game” in a way that succeeds – on all measures – far beyond the norm.
The right game played well achieves long-term above average returns to shareholders while meeting the legitimate needs of all stakeholders (the triple bottom line); and at the same time, successfully addresses long-term challenges and opportunities facing their companies and the societies in which they work.
DESCRIBING the NOBLE LEADER: Playing the game right we believe involves being a “noble leader”. Not only does this mean displaying superior character and morals (from the definitions of “noble’), we think that Noble Leaders are different from traditional leaders in other related ways– to be tested out in our interviews and surveys of the 40 leaders selected.
Our hypothesis is that the Noble Leader…
- SEES a different Reality than do other leaders, who perhaps then miss what’s possible. This includes seeing:
– POSSIBILITIES, not just Problems
– The GOOD in people, not just their weaknesses
– How everything, even if seemingly separate, is actually INTERCONNECTED.
- THINKS differently, by thinking of:
– The Big VISION & GOALS vs. (little) problems
– What’s RIGHT in any situation, rather than what is wrong or expedient
– Profits as just one objective and measure, not the be-all-end-all.
- FEELS differently (What motivates him/her is different)
– A deeply-held sense of Purpose (WHY we’re in business – & coming to work)
– Forming more powerful relationships with people in the business;
- IS different
– Being totally present with whomever she is working with
– Holding higher Values
– Showing up, being present, and being open to all outcomes
With the above differences, the Noble Leader either ACTS differently or, if he’s taking the same action as a traditional leader would, he gets far better results. Yet most books and courses on leadership begin and end their focus only with action (and emotional Intelligence).
LEARNING from NOBLE LEADERS: We have identified about 40 potential Noble Leaders from around the globe – mostly U.S., but also from Canada, Europe, South America and Asia – who we think might be noble leaders. We have designed a survey and have begun contacting the leaders on our list. This includes talking most recently with the founder and member of top management of Natura Cosmeticos, South America’s largest business corporation, a financially successful enterprise twice voted Brazil’s most admired company.
The Need for a CEO PRIMER: One of the CEOs in our survey (who led the turnaround of AT&T Canada, and was selected as a Finalist for Canadian CEO of the Year) said that when he became a new CEO, he looked for books that would help him become a successful CEO. He was surprised not to find such a book.
Shaping The NOBLE LEADER for SUCCESS: We aim for TNL to be that book. We plan to introduce new insights about leadership. We are designing TNL to inspire leaders with the examples of Noble Leaders succeeding far beyond the norm, just as many readers of NE were inspired by reading about the turnaround of AT&T Canada.
Our KNOWLEDGE BASE comes from solid experience:
- In Dar’s case, helping leaders – from project leaders to CEOs – effectively engage their people to achieve important business goals – then teaching, speaking and writing about it (one book authored, another a contributing author for, and several articles); and
- In Ken’s case, raising the rankings of several business school executive programs, and teaching economics, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics in leading business schools in the U.S., Canada, Europe and South America.
Business’ SAGGING BRAND IMAGE: The book will begin with a description of the sagging “Brand Image” of business due to:
- Lapses in Business Ethics
- Flagging Employee Morale, and
- An increasing Income Gap
Reversing the ALIENATION of YOUNG PEOPLE: We are distressed and disappointed that so many talented young people show little interest in working for large multinational enterprises. They perceive these organizations often as playing the game unethically, and exercising excessive power for the narrow interests of their shareholders. These young people want to find opportunities to use their energy and creativity for positive gains to society.
BUSINESS LEADERS Improving BUSINESS’S IMAGE: We believe business can and should be a positive and admired force in society. We do find some leaders of top companies who are determined simultaneously to behave ethically at all times; to systematically bring great products and services to their customers; to attract, retain, and develop top talent in the field; to respect their suppliers and the communities in which they work; to make higher than average returns in their industry; and finally, to address and help resolve systemic macro-economic and political problems such as the expanding income gap between top earners and the bottom rung.
QUESTIONS to be ADDRESSED: The questions we intend to answer are: What drives such leaders? From what leadership playbook are they functioning? And what challenges do Noble Leaders expect to address in the future? (We anticipate this list will include issues already in the business press, but will include others that go beyond today’s horizon.) We expect that the result of this effort will be a “guide” to Noble Leadership – and a collection of inspiring leadership vignettes.
Our THESIS is that the practice of Noble Leadership will not only lead to more successful companies, and attract and turn on employees, but will also naturally alleviate those major problems mentioned above. (We’re already seeing that in the examination of our 40 CEOs.) If that is the case, then the resolution of those problems will not require changes in laws or the intervention of government.
1) Why “Noble” Leadership
2) Transforming Capitalism
- Why Noble Leadership?“Noble Leadership” is NOT about upper-class leadership, although view of “noble” suggests just that. When Darwin wrote NOBLE ENTERPRISE, he used this definition of “noble”:
Noble: possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals. – Merriam-Webster Online dictionary.
Traditionally, business has emphasized the Mind. We’re focusing on Character, Ideals and Morals as well.
The main message (told mostly through the 40 CEOs we’re surveying) is that this broader approach makes for more effective leadership, yielding far better business results, elevating employee morale and contributions – attracting more customers – and growing a sustainable company.
- Transforming Capitalism
We plan to devote a chapter to how Noble Leaders may help Capitalism address some of its ills (Ethics lapses, the expanding “Income gap” & Low Employee Morale)
Most of the people pointing out Capitalism’s problems are promoting overarching solutions in which the Federal government plays the primary role – through tighter regulations and laws, and raising taxes to redistribute income and narrow the income gap.
We plan to portray that Noble Leaders may help usher in a new form of Capitalism – call it Noble Capitalism, in which the problems cited by Kotler (in Confronting CAPITALISM due out April 8, 2015) and others are addressed by how Noble Leaders shape and lead their companies. Thus we see the possible Transformation of Capitalism from the inside out.
Our book will describe changes to Capitalism that are possible – and are currently being introduced – “from within companies” (versus all or most of Kotler’s and of other people’s proposed remedies that are “outside/in” changes). These changes will be (are being) driven by:
- Noble CEOs (e.g., the ones we’re surveying) who are redefining the business model (how one succeeds in business, and what success looks like), and attracting and fully utilizing not just “Knowledge workers” but also “Light workers”;
- Enlightened Boards (and CEOs) who recognize that Human Capital is as important as – if not more important than – Financial Capital, and want to see the company honor and generate a return to that Human Capital, and thus who set up
– policies that activate this view point
– measures that track how well their company is achieving that goal
– appropriate rewards to the valuable resource
- Enlightened employees who vote with their feet and leave companies that are not Noble Enterprises, and seek out Noble Enterprises to work for, bringing their considerable talents (fruits of the Mind) and (equally important) their considerable spirit and good will (fruits of the Heart), thus helping the company to succeed and in the process raising up fellow employees and customers.
- Even enlightened customers who choose the companies they will buy from based not just on the quality and price of their product, but on the quality of their relationship with that company.
More About The NOBLE LEADER Project
WHY Are We Writing the Book?
We believe that “business as usual” is no longer cutting it – for employees, customers, communities or even shareholders, let alone society. We agree with Willis Harmon, co-founder of the World Business Academy, who wrote in the 1980’s:
“Business has become, in the last half century, the most powerful institution
on the planet. The dominant institution in any society needs to take
responsibility for the whole.”
We start with that overarching philosophy. Then specifically here are the reasons that we are writing The Noble Leader
- Because business has a tarnished brand image – due to flagrant ethical violations and huge concentration of wealth. There have been many efforts to “raise the bar”- with increased focus in business schools on ethics courses, and increased ethics training inside companies, but with little widespread positive impact.
We believe this could be solved with the right kind of leadership.
- Because employee morale and commitment is low – very low. A recent Gallup poll found that 70% of U.S. employees say they are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” at work with the number one reason for their disengagement being the quality of their leadership.[i] A decade earlier, Hay Group surveyed over a million employees globally and reached similar conclusions, including that over a third of employees surveyed planned to leave their current employers within two years.Just think of the “lost” productivity from this. The toll of low employee morale is high (on both the employee and the company), yet it is often overlooked by companies as they focus more on the financial numbers (and how to get them up) than on employee morale (and how to get that up – and then utilize it).
We believe this could be successfully addressed with the right kind of leadership.
- Because business schools and executive programs don’t yet have it right. They turn out future leaders who can turn a profit, but have no moral compass or concern for people and society.
This too could be solved if they taught about the noble side of leadership – and enterprise.
- Leadership books are many, but there is no agreed approach to leadership. And the emphasis is on the Mind and Action. There is no mention of character or morals.
We aim to provide a book that builds that into the leadership psyche and approach.
Above all we believe that the best contribution we can to make is to tell the inspiring stories of leaders who already practice Noble Leadership – at big and small companies, not only in North American, but also on other continents.
[i] per Steven B. Wiley, Founder, The Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg
WHAT is Noble Leadership?
We start with a general definition, and recognize that we will learn more from the surveys of CEOs and business owners.
First, a (dictionary) definition of nobility is:
“Being Superior in Mind, and also in Character and Morals”
But what is Noble Leadership? We start with a working definition, which will either be corroborated by the survey results – or we will change it according to what we discover in surveying CEOs and business owners. Here’s our starting view: That Noble Leaders are different from traditional leaders in five ways: in his/her Seeing, Thinking, Feeling, Being – and finally Acting/doing.
1) The Noble Leader SEES a different Reality than do other leaders who perhaps then miss what’s possible. This includes seeing:
– POSSIBILITIES, not just Problems
– the GOOD in people, not just their weaknesses
– how everything, even if seemingly separate, is actually INTERCONNECTED..
2) The Noble Leader THINKS differently, in terms of thinking of:
– The Big VISION & GOALS vs. (little) problems
– What’s RIGHT in any situation, rather than what is expedient
– Profits as just one objective and measure, not the be-all-end-all.
3) The Noble Leader FEELS differently (What motivates him/her is different)
– a deeply-held sense of Purpose (WHY we’re in business – & coming to work)
4) The Noble Leader IS different in his/her very Being
– The Values he/she holds dear and operates from (HOW he/she conduct ourselves in business)
5) The Noble Leader (then) ACTS differently.
– maybe the Noble Leader takes different action, but it because his/her actions are in line with #1,2 ,3 and 4, that those actions are much more powerful and effective
The leader who does ALL FIVE of the above is the one who rises to Noble Leadership.
WHO are the authors?
- Author of NOBLE ENTERPRISE: The Commonsense guidelines for Uplifting People and Profits
- Author of numerous ARTICLES and a frequent SPEAKER at association and business meetings
- President/CEO of a small beauty equipment manufacturer,
- Director of Corporate Planning of a Fortune 500 electrical manufacturing co.,
- Consultant to large companies in several industries (Pharmaceuticals, Paper & Containers) in strategy and operations improvement
- Consultant to owners of smaller professional service and hi-tech firms on leadership
- U of Chicago Graduate School of Business, MBA – Business Economics
- Yale U – BA, Economics
- taught courses and seminars on strategy, management and leadership at numerous business schools incl. Boston College and Washington U in St Louis
- Helping a business school clients design or improve their executive programs.
- Teaching a global management course for Northwestern Kellogg Business School
- Teaching a Business Ethics course at Aix au Provence in France.
- Serving as an advisor to Fundação Dom Cabral, South America’s leading business school
- NYU Business School – MBA- Economics
- Yale U - BA, English
The Survey of CEOs and Business Owners?
We will go beyond merely describing Noble Leadership. We will show the reader examples of Noble Leaders – how they See, how they Think, how they Feel as well as how they Act.
We’ve identified some 40 CEOs and business owners, primarily in the U.S. but also in Europe, South Asia and South America whom we are in the process of surveying.
We’re asking the leaders we are surveying to address some twenty questions – either by filling out the survey – and/or by meeting with us and talking through the survey.
The book will tell the stories of many of these leaders in the book, as a way of showing the reader that Noble Leaders already exist and inspiring them to become Noble Leaders themselves.
Our CEO Survey List
We are excited to tell you about the leaders chosen to be surveyed. We’ll announce the names later in the project once we have talked to all of them. In the meantime, here’s some general info about the group.
- For many of them, one or both of us has worked with them over the years on management and organization issues.
- Others have been recommended to us by close colleagues
- For many, they are at the peak of their career. In some cases, they are reflecting back on years of leadership experience
- Some are CEOs of major corporations which you’ll immediately recognize
- Some are leading mid-size companies
- And several have founded and lead their own (smaller) companies.
- ALL of them are exceeding far beyond the norm.
- Several have already written successful books describing their experience and learnings.
- The group is moderately geographically diverse, with a preponderance of American business leaders, many Europeans, as well as a few representatives from elsewhere, including South America and South Asia.
- The group is diverse based on religious/spiritual practices, with not only Catholics, Protestants and Jews, but also Baha’is, Hindus and others (but most keep their religion private).
Most of all, these are people who care about doing Leadership right.
Presentations on Noble Leadership
The authors are available to speak about Noble Leadership and what they are learning from the Noble Leaders they are surveying.
Here is a photo of us (Dar and Ken) with Donna Maria Bordeaux, founder and head of Greater Brunswick Physical Therapy (one of the business owners we have surveyed for the book) when we presented at beautiful Caterpillar Hill (CHI) in coastal Maine about Spirituality in Business and the Noble Leader book project. The fourth person (second from the left) is Dylan Howard, President of CHI.
Our Vision of SUCCESS
The book will be used widely in
- business school leadership programs,
- business ethics programs
- and executive development programs,
either based inside companies or provided by business schools and other providers Executive Education programs
…and will inspire some readers to become Noble Leaders – and thus to contribute to high employee morale and productivity, high business ethics standards, superior business performance AS WELL AS make their industries better in serving society.
We Welcome Your ASSISTANCE in Achieving that Vision!
Here is assistance we seek to make this project a success:
- A LITERARY AGENT who can help us with marketing
- A PUBLISHER who can help us make this a great book
- SPONSORS who can provide funding
– to help pay for travel to complete the surveying and interviewing the 40 CEOs
– to pay for development of the book
– to fund the marketing needed to make the book ultimately successful
We will honor the book’s sponsors with mention in the book and also complimentary books and our speaking and/or conducting a Noble Leadership training for their organization
Please send us an email if you would like to consider helping us.