What differentiates a truly great leader from just another CEO? The leader who focuses beyond just revenue and profits and encompasses the quality of teams that are built, the community connect achieved and the sustainability of the organization into the future. Whether it’s a Warren Buffett, a Jack Welch or an Anand Mahindra, their strong sense of inclusiveness, working for the betterment of people and doing good for communities and the environment make them stand out.

Inclusive leaders take thoughtful steps to create corporate success stories that reward shareholders, delight customers and build strong leadership and corporate citizenship. Through early education in Jharkhand and a family background of social work, an immersion into the problems of rural India made me conscious of inclusion at all times. My two CEO stints at Aptech and Zensar over 26 years gave me ample opportunity to reach out within and outside the companies I ran to do what I could for people and planet beyond the chase for profits. These opportunities to demonstrate a heart that beats for social causes are there for many CEOs as they build teams and organizations, particularly in our country.

Inclusive leaders take thoughtful steps to create corporate success stories that reward shareholders, delight customers and build strong leadership and corporate citizenship. All too often, a corporate social responsibility committee and a well-meaning human resources director are seen as adequate for this purpose. Rare indeed are the leaders who commit themselves to truly changing lives, within and outside their organizations. Managers and leaders who actively participate in designing social interventions in the communities they serve are able to go beyond revenue growth and market share and earn a richer dividend through time well invested.

Leaders with a heart are able to orient team commitment to social and national causes and build sustainable corporations in an increasingly divisive business environment. For me, it is heartening to see that in the three organizations I now chair, a visible heart is inspiring all corporate leaders who are part of these entities to make a visible difference. At our consulting firm 5F World, the digital technologies we develop find ready deployment in corporations as well as the social sector and motivates the leaders of the seven companies in the group to take pride in making a difference. At Pune City Connect, a collaborative social venture working in partnership with the Pune municipal corporation, the board consists of industry leaders like Meher Pudumjee and Rahul Kirloskar, and support for the Lighthouses sustainable livelihood programme and our digital empowerment and school transformation efforts come from local and national businesses and foundations.

And finally, Social Venture Partners, a venture philanthropy approach that enables over 3,000 business leaders worldwide, including a couple of hundred in India, to participate in social initiatives, enables goodwill towards society to find expression in many forms. SVP India has touched over 40 social organizations, enabled both local and national scaling, and launched the aspirational Million Jobs Mission that uses a unique approach of aspiration building, counselling and choice of skills to put hundreds of thousands of young Indians into sustainable livelihoods.

Opportunities abound beyond what can be done by a firm to what can be achieved in one’s own personal capacity. Individual Social Responsibility is enabling many leaders to become early philanthropists and collaborative philanthropy, with the goal of applying corporate discipline to social causes, is just one reason why over 200 leaders have rallied under the SVP banner to apply their mind and heart to social causes.

The energy that gets unleashed when leaders put their heart to work is infectious. Experiencing the CEO of a large corporation or a well-known industrialist passionately espouse the cause of a social organization and seeing the smiles created among members of an underprivileged community through the deployment of both money and time are precious experiences. No leader should deny herself this experience and the opportunity to truly make a difference.

Ganesh Natarajan is chairman of Social Venture Partners India, Pune City Connect and 5F World.

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