Missional Business: Balancing Change and Calling in Public, Private and Social Leadership

I like Adam Grant’s take on healthy corporate culture and integrated leadership roles coming from public, private and social engagement. Balance — it’s all about balance! How else can we be resilient and successful, dancing gracefully with both the changes constantly challenging us, and our calling as leaders?

Rendering Anew

The cover story in September’s Harvard Business Review is about women in leadership. I figured it would provide some good content for our discussion, but on the way to the article I got sidetracked, or maybe main-tracked, by a relevant article, Triple-Strength Leadership.

The article praises leaders who are simultaneously capable in all three sectors: public, private, and social. The government sector represents cultural change and organizing a population. The private sector is business, representing profits and using money as the incentive. The social sector refers to thinking like a non-profit organization, driven by purpose. The best leaders are those that combine their strengths in all three of those domains. The article describes examples of the different ways people have reached that successful pinnacle and concludes with steps to train the next generation considering all of this.

Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton, recently authored a NY-Times-hyped book on…

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  1. Thanks for the thought provoking post. Question! Is it about balance or is it about living and leading out of our unique personality, strengths and wiring? I believe that if we live and lead based on WHO we are that we will live integrated and provide integrated leadership.


    1. I agree that it’s very important to live as WHO we are, otherwise — why bother? What will we have to offer? But I disagree that that will mean we automatically provide integrated leadership or find balance. We need to learn that being ourselves is only the first step in our negotiation of the world, not the bottom line. It may be the hardest step because so much discourages us from being authentic! But when we find our core and learn the stories we want to live from that core, our next step is to find a way to be in the world as ourselves — to find a flexible way to be authentic, in relationship.

      We need to lead from that place of relationship with others, in order to live our stories meaningfully and in balance with possibility and pragmatism. Great leaders do this. Others end up being defensive and dogmatic, not leading effectively no matter how authentic or true to themselves they are.

      What do you think?


    2. I have checked out your book, The Story Lives, and I see more where you’re coming from. I absolutely agree that we are living stories, and that our stories are greater than we are. You speak eloquently and passionately about living the Christian story, and leading from that story. So it makes sense that you would experience both balance and connection in that story, which has a unique evangelical structure that equates your leadership story and your faith story as the best way of living.

      It seems to me that we all need to dive as deep into our lived stories as you have, and live consciously in order to find that balance. In that way, it is about integrating who we are and our values and our relationships in the world!


      1. HI Carol, Thank you for checking out the book and for your thoughtful comments. You are absolutely correct that merely knowing ourselves is not enough…I totally agree. But as you pointed out within the context of The Story Lives, if we know and fully live our stories it seems like we can’t help but be in balance. If we don’t we stop being authentic and truly ourselves. Unfortunately, living this way seems to be uncommon. Thanks for sharing from your heart and beating the drum for balanced missional leadership!


      2. I like what you said, “if we know and fully live our stories it seems like we can’t help but be in balance.” Maybe this is partly because living our stories fully helps us make adjustments when they’re not working, respond to situations authentically and flexibly. We learn from them by living. It is unfortunate that it’s so uncommon, and difficult. I wonder if that’s why, when someone leads in this way, we think of that person as a hero.


      3. It always amazes me that authenticity is rare. Once you get used to living and leading authentically it is freeing, satisfying and effortless. What do you think makes it so rare? Funny that others think of these leaders as heros…maybe it’s because people in general are scared to be real. Of course the truth is that when you are real and authentic people tend to like you better and you’re more effective. Another paradox.


      4. I’ve thought a lot about authenticity and how much we yearn for it, how hard it is to achieve! It’s good to find someone else as passionate about it.

        I think the deepest paradox of authenticity is that we FEEL better when we are authentic, and LIVE better, even when we don’t get TREATED better. It’s a risk! And well worth it, especially for people who want to be more effective leaders. But it means we don’t hide, which means we have to find a place where we can be authentic and effective, and that’s a process that’s not always comfortable or easy. So I think the paradox is it feels freeing, satisfying and effortless, but it requires effort, translation and negotiation to work.

        In my mind, it’s a process, not an identity. And that’s why it’s scary, and requires a real commitment. Well worth it, though — and ultimately so much more satisfying than not being present. And yes, without authenticity, how can we be transformational leaders? Or truly connect to other people? Or to the divine, the natural world, and our own hearts!

        So, as the Hawaiians say, it’s a choiceless choice – it’s a choice but the alternative is so devastating that ultimately we’re all brought to the choice again and again, because it is the best way to live.


      5. Amen. Love the thoughts and truth you share. Couldn’t agree more. 🙂


  2. […] that?) behind the Common Core Standards is very interesting in its implications for understanding how power, money and corporate influence (however well-intentioned) create cultural movements, often… The Common Core standards make a test into manacles for teacher and student, and take away […]


  3. […] about the failure of a leadership story, in this case Noah’s. He was good, I guess, as the founder of the ark — but once on board, what’s a seer to do? Rage, rage against the dying of […]


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