Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Last weeks lunar eclipse reminded me of the movie Moon and how our corporations of today try to hide the impacts of their profit motives.  In the movie, it is the near future and astronaut Sam Bell works a solitary job on the far side of the moon.  His cooperate employer Lunar Industries is mining the answer to earths energy problems – Helium-3.  As he nears the end of his three-year contract to keep the operations running, he experiences an accident while trying to conduct repairs to the mining equipment.  

Waking up in the sickbay of the moon station, he is confronted by a clone of himself.  Sam and his clone discover that the corporation has stockpiled a multitude of incubating clones each one waiting to be woken in turn to replace the acting clone when their bodies are worn out by the end of their three-year contract.  By simply replacing the workers with clones, the corporation can avoid the high costs of sending new recruits to the moon and the extensive training that would be required to replace them every three years.

The corporations of today may not have reached the levels of unethical behavior portrayed by Lunar Industries, but they are driven by the same motive that fueled it – profit.  Robert Greenleaf understood well the consequences of corporations driven by profit, or money above and beyond that needed to meet their needs.  

In his essay “Spirituality As Leadership” from the book SEEKER AND SERVANT, he wrote, “Another aspect of money that concerns the quest for spirituality as leadership is the problem of those who have more money then their legitimate needs require, thus giving them power over those who have less money than they think they need, including those at or below the poverty level.  The power exists whether they loan the money at interest, invest it for the return of rent or dividends, speculate in some venture, hide it in a mattress, or give it away.

For Greenleaf, the only bottom line that mattered in an organization that practiced servant leadership was his best test of the servant-leader from the essay “The Servant As Leader” in the book SERVANT LEADERSHIP – “Do those served grow as persons?  Do they, while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants.  And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society?  Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?
Where this best test becomes a true test and where our current corporations fail is when you expand the concept of who is served by the organization.  Who is served is not just the shareholders, it is not just the CEO’s, it is not just the management, it is not just the workers, nor is it just the customers of the corporation.  Those that are served needs to include all those who are touched by the consequences of the corporation’s actions and operating principles.        

The key question “what is the effect on the least privileged?” really gets at the need to be aware of who is served and who and what are the impacts. These consequences need to include those from the supply chain, the environmental impacts on the ecosystem and our planet, and the social and cultural impacts on the community. 

It is the complex global nature of today's corporations that makes determining who is served and what the impacts are nearly impossible, which is not an accident.  Avoiding consequences and maximizing profits are the main reasons our corporations of today move operations to areas with low labor costs and lack of environmental regulations.

As we become more aware of the consequences of these motives on our people and our planet, moving corporate operations off earth and to the moon does not seem so far fetched. To avoid an even worse future, it is time to stop cloning the profit driven motive of our corporate world and it is time to stop trying to eclipse their effects with terms like “corporate social responsibility” or “the triple bottom line of profit – people – and planet”.   

Instead, we need to create new models of operation where we can truly be aware of our actions and truly test the resulting servant-leader institutions.  And local production to meet local needs is a key to unmasking the consequences of our production and consumptive driven lives.             

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