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Elegant Business Leadership

As a follow-on to my most recent entry on the subject of business, I post the following article in its entirely, with the permission of the author. Mr. Kimura operates the Vision in Action website.

Elegant Business Leadership

by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura

Bill Gates, when he announced his impending retirement and intention to turn to full-time philanthropy, stated that he “needs to give back to the community.” This begs the question, as, for instance, renowned philosopher Tibor R. Machan asked in his article for Free-Market News Network(1): Why and what does he need to give back to the community? Has he taken something from the community? Have people lent him something which he needs to return?

Mr. Gates has already given immensely to the world community through his business. Very few individuals in history have ever given as much and in such a magnitude. In the process he has taken nothing from the community nor has he been lent anything from others. Just as a great architect such as Christopher Alexander builds magnificent buildings, so has Mr. Gates built a majestic business. Just as the architect deserves and receives payment for his creative work, so does Mr. Gates deserve and receive payment for his creative work.

That he worked very hard and remained a consistent winner in a game of win-or-lose is not his fault. It was neither his genius nor mission in life to change the structure and nature of the game itself. He was the last tycoon of the Industrial Age whose products happened to be requisite tools of the advancing Information Age. Regardless of how we judge the way he conducted his business, we can never deny the tremendous contribution he has made to the world. He should never feel that he “needs to return something to the community” because he has never taken anything from the community.

Thus far, Mr. Gates’ giving to the world has been done in the context of trade, which is based on the principle of equal giving and re-giving. Now, by turning to full-time philanthropy, he is only shifting the mode of giving from that based on trade to that based on gift-giving—from that within the context of market economy to that within the context of gift economy.

As a form of giving, gift-giving or philanthropy is not inherently morally superior to trade. Trade assumes and requires that the parties involved be capable of creating and producing values for equal exchange. We do not enter into transactions with a party whom we do not consider trustworthy or capable. Trade is thus based on mutual respect.

Philanthropy is a type of giving in which the recipient creates and produces values that will be given to people other than (but not excluding) the giver. Whereas in trade the recipient directly gives back to the giver, in philanthropy the recipient is expected to give back to a community that may not include the giver. Therefore, each form of giving has its own place.

You and I who live in an affluent part of the world can afford to buy Microsoft products, but those who suffer from poverty in Africa cannot afford them or may not even need them. What they need instead is food, shelter, medicine, hospitals, schools, economic infrastructures, and functioning governments. Philanthropy is an appropriate form of giving in this instance. But, unless the recipients of this kind of philanthropic giving eventually become self-sufficient and capable of entering into trade relations with the rest of the world, our philanthropic efforts will produce chronic dependency on the part of the recipients.

The visionary spiritual philosopher Walter Russell (1873-1963) discovered a hidden spiritual law behind Newton’s famous Third Law of Motion. Whereas Newton states: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1686), Russell states: Every action is simultaneously balanced by an equal and opposite reaction, and repeated sequentially in reversed polarity (A New Concept of the Universe, 1953).

What is important is the reversal of polarity. That is, in the process of giving, the recipient also must become the giver. Then, every instance of giving generates two instances of re-giving—simultaneously and sequentially. Then, 1 + 1 equals not 2 but 4. Every time you give, you receive twice, once from your own act of giving and once from the other to whom you give. This is what synergy is. This is how we create spiritual and material abundance in the world.

Some business leaders, such as John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, integrate both forms of giving in their business models. They are a new breed of business leaders who not only give to the world through trade and philanthropy but also multiply the effect of their giving by creating a synergy between these two modes of giving. In their business model, trade and philanthropy form a complementary unity, and their business becomes a unified field of value creation and value giving.

Such businesses I call Elegant Business and the kind of leadership required for the creation of Elegant Business I call Elegant Business Leadership(2). Mr. Mackey is a good example of Elegant Business Leadership, while the Whole Foods Market, combined with Mr. Mackey’s various philanthropies, beautifully exemplifies Elegant Business. Elegant Business, with its integration of market and social entrepreneurship, is transforming the very nature of the game of business.

Business is a creative and therefore spiritual endeavor. Great entrepreneurs enter the field of business in the same way great artists enter the field of art. With their business creation, entrepreneurs express their spiritual desire for self-realization, evolutionary passion for self-fulfillment, and creative vision of a new world. The creation of business is as creative as any creation in art. Their business is their artwork.

Today we are entering the age of Elegant Business and Elegant Business Leadership in which the true success of a business is judged by the degree of its elegance—the quality that emerges when wholeness, integrity, balance, abundance, grace, and generosity are present within the organization and in its relationship to the world and the planet at large.(3)

1. www.FreeMarketNews.com. “Bill Gates, Please Shut Up Already” by Tibor R. Machan, Monday, June 19, 2006.

2. The term “elegant business” was first coined by Southern California Vision In Action Business Consortium member Linda Watkins of Watkins Consulting Group at a monthly meeting. However, the concept of Elegant Business briefly outlined above is the author’s.

3. Vision In Action is in a process of developing Elegant Business 500—500 most elegant corporations in the world that combine business (free-market economic philosophy) and philanthropy (gift-giving economic philosophy) for the benefit of humanity as a whole. Vision In Action will work with Elegant Business 500 companies and other like-minded non-profit organizations to make definitive changes in the world, especially to eliminate poverty and create abundance.

© 2006, Yasuhiko Genku Kimura

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

3 Comments

  1. Aaron Krowne on January 28, 2007 at 11:57

    In theory.

    In reality, maybe Gates feels a little guilty for all those questionable business tactics — some of which he was actually convicted for (toothlessly).

    But I agree: generally, successful businesspeople have no obligation to give back beyond their business. As long as coercion wasn't involved, the entire world benefitted as much as they did in receiving their wealth (likely more, in fact).

    The pursuit of profits has — by far — created more wealth for humanity than their redistribution.

  2. Richard Nikoley on January 30, 2007 at 14:59

    Jon:

    Yea, I'm not a big fan of the "it was luck" argument. I think it's damaging on two fronts, for, while it sooths the ego of many when great achievements can be attributed to chance, it also absolves the lazy, incurious, and unambitious of responsibility.

    Chance exists, to be sure, but in the space of a lifetime, well, it's like an extra good or bad week or month on a 30-year stock chart. Plus, chance evens itself out. We have some good chance, and so bad chance. Only the very extreme ends of the bell curve get a disproportionate amount of one or the other.

    It still comes down to the individual initiative to take advantage of the really good waves when they come along.

    In that context, Bill Gates perhaps isn't best lauded for what he did. After all, someone else would have done it…EVENTUALLY. So, that's the crux of it. It's that Bill Gates was the first to do it big. He was the first to put a computer or two on every desk because of the combination / integration of proprietary software with open hardware.

  3. Jon Barnes on January 30, 2007 at 14:23

    Very interesting! I don't really disagree with anything Mr. Kimura says, but I do guibble a bit. There is a whole other side here that isn't discussed…a dichodomy if you will.

    Most people including me, until recently, don't take luck seriously enough. Who we are both physically and spiritualy (our mental process) is luck, a throw of the dice, a function of the genetics we are born with…not at all of our choosing so it would seem. The idea of "spiritual genetics" I'm borrowing from the guy that the Will Smith movie, Pursuit of Happiness, is based on. An idea that I agree with. I'm talking about mental precess in its entirety…IQ, how we think, how we make choices. Taking my own life as an example, I'm far better off financially than any of the rest of my family. Did I do that myself…of course I did. As I look back, nearly every choice I made was to choose the path of least resistance. When I came to a fork in the road, I took it! LOL Even in the cases that some would argue, were not the path of least resistance, I could argue that for me, they were.

    For example, in my life there was a point where I was really upset with Income Tax laws. I bitched and moaned and reasoned and argued why this or that was bad and/or unfair. The idea of getting our IRS Tax Code into a form that appealed to me seemed hopeless. Then I realized, if I'm not going to be able to change our abominable tax code in the foreseeable furture, then best I change my attitude about it and work within the system. I did, bought some Real Estate some 30 plus years ago, and am now fairly comfortable in retirement. That choice I made meant long hours, doing fix up
    myself, cleaning other people's toilets, dealing with bad tenants, and more. Some could argue…that was not the path of least resistance, the easy path. I could argue that it was. I wasn't satisfied with where I would be if I didn't increase my wealth. Real Estate was the path I chose. Rising up in a company to make big bucks was, for me, going to be much harder. Also, the idea of robbing banks didn't appeal to me. LOL

    So what does this have to do with anything? Mr. Kimura didn't like “needs to return something to the community” because he has never taken anything from the community. I agree…he didn't take anything. That doesn't mean nothing was given to him…pardon the double neg. Everything he did took place in a context he had nothing to do with the creation of. (sorry again for my grammar) When he, Bill Gates, given who he was, was dropped into this society, at that point in time, he did what he did, and we all got what got…the personal computer, internet and all that. His contribution was great and is, I think, in balance with the money he made. So…what I'm saying is I don't have any problem with Bill Gates choice of words "needs to give back". I feel that way myself within my own family and in my own small way with the rest of the planet.

    Does any of this mean in any way that nothing happens without a force to make it happen, that life is not is a long series of cause and effect. Everything I do, and don't do, everything I choose and don't choose, makes a difference not only to me, but to those around me. I am the creator of my own destiny…and I AM ONE LUCKY SON-OF-A-BITCH.

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