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The Vocation of the Business Leader

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Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson

The first part of the Vocation of the Business Leader focuses on how one interprets the “signs of the times”. It analyzes the contemporary scenario in which business leaders and organizations find themselves, a scenario characterized by globalization, new communication technology, financialization, and cultural change.

The main feature of globalization, the interdependence of world economies, leads us to conclude that no person or nation can think of itself as entirely independent of others. Indeed, the speed of modern communication unites us daily with members of the international community. We are ever more interconnected, and it becomes ever more apparent that we share a common destiny. Decisions made in one part of the world frequently impact peoples’ lives half a world away. This increasing interconnectedness imposes great responsibility on business leaders involved in the decision-making process. Business executives and members of their enterprise are called to commit themselves to the common good of the entire human family.

As humanity becomes more interconnected, we should make every effort to enter into true communion with one another. While globalization makes us neighbours, it does not automatically make us brothers….

Besides, in the last quarter century there has been a radical shift in the economy from production to finance, a phenomenon known as the financialization of the economy. The revenue and profits of the financial sector have become an increasingly large segment of the worldwide economy…. We observe a rise in short-termism, the spasmodic search for short-term success and profit, and commoditization, I would dare to say, of “everything”. The meaning of human enterprise is reduced to price…. It is becoming increasingly rare for business enterprises to be in the hands of a stable director who feels responsible for the long-term – not just the short-term – life and results of the company.

Fortunately, we are witnessing a change in business, a new tendency among organizations, both public and private, to view profit as a means for achieving human and social ends – in other words, as an opportunity to serve the common good. Indeed, enterprises are making room for the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift involved in the production of work, the organization of work, in the relation to various stakeholders, and in the distribution of revenue. They are doing this from the beginning, and so the canons of justice are being intentionally heeded as the economic profess unfolds, not just afterwards or incidentally….

The crisis that we have been experiencing for the last three years is mainly a crisis of faith – a crisis of identity, meaning, and the dignity of work, which dramatically manifests itself especially in economic spheres. The economic paradigm of the last thirty years, which centered on capital gains, has come to its term. A change in gear is required and turn-about is required. You are our hope. You are our hope for a more human economy, a more creative mark and more profitable to “foster the development of each man and of the whole man.”