By: Ellen Martin | Associate Director, Partnerships at Shared Value Initiative | January 27th, 2015

Are you searching for someone in your company to take the lead on shared value? Maybe you heard about an inspiring project and wondered who made it happen. Or you’re looking for a project manager to help implement a new initiative. Perhaps you’re searching for a visionary CEO who “gets” shared value.

We know that shared value is stretching organizations to develop competencies beyond the core management skills commonly taught in business schools today. But how do we define shared value leadership?

Companies may have a well thought-out strategy, great partners, and a sound business plan, but at the end of the day it is the individual leaders that will make shared value strategies happen. Recent thinking from the shared value community has led us to five new insights on what that this class of leaders might look like:

They develop specific skills. In early December, my colleagues from the Shared Value Initiative and FSG met with Nicola Robins of our Consulting Affiliate firm Incite to discuss the micro-skills necessary for shared value leadership. For example, if a shared value leader is going to reconceive products and markets, she likely needs an eye for systems and the creativity to envision innovative solutions that don’t yet exist. We need to profile the shared value leaders we admire the most to better understand their success.

They learn from others. The following week, Harvard Business School launched its first shared value executive education course, preparing managers to be more effective shared value leaders, like those at Discovery Health, Dow, Novo Nordisk, Novartis, and Yara.

They lead at a systems level. The Winter 2015 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review included a new article by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania on “The Dawn of System Leadership,” with plenty of insight for shared value leaders. The gateways to becoming a system leader include reorienting strategy to “creat(e) the space for change and enabl(e) collective intelligence and wisdom to emerge,” just as Nike did to innovate their products to be more environmentally sustainable.

They spark change in companies. In November, the latest cohort of the Shared Value Initiative’s Consulting Affiliate Network met Maggie Depree (League of Intrapreneurs), Damian Payiatakis (Barclays Wealth), Ole Kjerkegaard Nielsen (Novo Nordisk), and Sophie Castell (Coca-Cola) to learn about the experience of social intrapreneurs working in many different functions and roles inside of companies (sometimes off the side of their desks) to create shared value. These change agents must be focused on making incremental changes within their roles and influencing decision-makers in their organizations.

They’re activists for social change. Shared value leaders also need to be activists to have real impact. According to our affiliate Innate Motion, “Successful activists excel by having a point of action.” The same goes for shared value leaders within companies, especially those who prominently represent the brand. And besides, the firm assures us that figuring out what kind of activist you need to be can be fun!

As companies drive shared value at the organizational level through their practices and policies, let’s not forget to pay attention to the individual leaders that make shared value approaches succeed. Of course this list is by no means final or exhaustive. Tell us: What does a shared value leader look like to you?

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