Working Positive Change Through Business Leadership

Work Culture

Future State CEO Shannon Adkins recently joined Jake Carlson of the Modern Leadership podcast. During the episode, A Commitment to Making a Difference with Shannon Adkins, she shared how her personal and work experiences have shaped her leadership style and beliefs.

Here are some key takeaways—on business and career—from Shannon during the podcast:

On Leadership

As early as high school, I adopted a commitment to making a difference and a strong sense of justice and equity. Those commitments have become even more relevant in the current business environment, which requires leaders who model empathy, self-awareness, collaboration and communication.

In the 21st century, leadership qualities are in demand for everyone. Being able to say “I’m going to lead the way that I’m going to lead” when somebody tells me to be more aggressive or bang the table louder has become a valuable leadership attribute.

One of the most important parts of the equation is authenticity. Be able to lead from that place of self-awareness and authenticity so that you can recognize your own triggers, interrupt yourself, and give your team the tools to interrupt you too.

On a Shared Purpose

To engage employees and sustain business, I believe the work must be purpose-driven. Workers of all ages demand, and deserve, to have work that’s more than just a job—they want to do something they believe in.

Accountability and engagement cannot grow organically, as they must, if there isn’t a clear connection to what we’re doing and why it matters. We heard this from the CEO of BlackRock, right? If a business isn’t authentically articulating and acting consistently with a declared purpose that matters to the stakeholders, it’s going to be a tough battle, right?

Part of offering a shared purpose comes back to leadership, and to conveying an overarching vision: Where are we headed? Why? It’s an important skill to build momentum and inspire people to that shared purpose. It’s also an important skill in our work with our clients, because we work with people who are often the unsung heroes of massive transformation inside of very large corporations.

The scale and impact of an organization is going to be limited by the leadership inside of the organization. If you can create more leaders in your organization who have autonomy and accountability for producing extraordinary and outstanding results, who feel personally committed to those outcomes, your business is going to grow and scale much faster and much more effectively. It’s a company then. It’s not an individual or a hierarchy. It’s a company that’s striding and evolving in ways that are unpredictable and magical.

On the Force of Business

Business is the most powerful force on the planet. At the end of the day, the power and the influence that business has in the United States of America, and really across the globe, is second to none.

It’s not a right to run a business and do harm. Check out what it looks like to become a B Corp. It’s both an important attribute for our employees to know that we are purpose-driven and that we are willing to be assessed against those criteria by an independent third party. I think it’s going to be the wave of the future. We’re riding that wave and invite everybody to do that.

On Work Culture and Opportunities

At one point I considered a career in the legal or policy field, and although I chose another direction my work now delves into those areas.

We certainly find ourselves doing more and more advocacy and policy work as entrepreneurs and as business owners. But I’m really very proud of the culture we’ve created at Future State and inspired by what is becoming kind of the new norm, or at least certainly the new aspiration, for organizations to lead in an equitable and fair way that recognizes the strengths of individuals and builds upon them.

People who are oriented toward what they can offer and what they can give have greater success in the end. It’s the opportunity for people to be empowered by orienting around a stakeholder view, orienting around being of service, being a servant leader, making sure that they’re contributing and providing opportunities to support others.

It’s good business. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your well-being. It’s a better way to live.