The prevailing top-down approach to corporate leadership stifles any different style, but there is a new crop of young corporate leaders that can overturn the status quo. They have the capabilities, the vision and resolution to bring about transformational change in the corporate culture of the country, but they need a chance
In April this year, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) had unveiled an ambitious 10-year vision plan for national economic transformation.
It was a bold and visionary document that had included the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its centre to kick start a paradigm shift in the economy of the nation.
A paradigm shift is really what we need to have if we want to ensure Nepal will be able to transition to a greener, sustainable, accountable and inclusive future.
A stronger national economy must not only be greener and sustainable, a must to implement the government's commitments made at the Glasgow COP26 and translate into action its 2nd Nationally Determined Contributions Plan, but it also needs to be accountable in the sense that accountability and personal responsibility should be a key mantra for all citizens.
I am talking about a concept of self-leadership that embeds positive values that can, among others, make a much fairer game for people, especially those historically and socio-economically disadvantaged, to have their chances to succeed.
We are talking about ethical leadership that embraces also inclusion and make sure that the status quo gets broken and the nation can unleash its vitality and dynamism by harnessing and leveraging its diverse pool of unused talent.
In this context, it is positive that the FNCCI is launching consultations about another code of conduct that should set high standards for ethical behaviours.
It is a pressing time for the industrialists because elections are coming and, therefore, once again, there is a need to set some new benchmarks in relation to how political parties and the business sector should work together rather than collude with each other.
Can this become a real opportunity to discuss about leadership, ethical practices and good governance in the business sector? Yet, if the motive remains only anchored to a sense of urgency exclusively framed in the perspective of the risks associated with the politics-business nexus, maximised during elections time, then the country will waste another chance.
The Business Code of Conduct Forum, formed under the leadership of Padma Jyoti, has a big responsibility to initiate a discussion that won't end just with the elections next year.
It must be an ongoing exercise that goes beyond revising or drafting a new code of conduct.
The core responsibility that Jyoti has is to enable a broader process that links the formulation of any new code of conduct with the 10-year vision plan unveiled by FNCCI, and that's why the focus should be on ethical leadership.
Those who think that it will be easy, they are wrong.
It won't because it will require behavioural changes that are hard to embrace because they demand deep introspection, self-analysis and loss of entrenched and often profitable habits.
Changes in the mindsets, changes in the way deals are made, changes in the way workers and employees are treated.
In a recent conversation with a manager of a major business group, I heard the story that change can happen also through small acts.
A colleague, for example, is facing a very tough time due to a personal situation, and it is easy to discount the pain that this person faces, especially if she is at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy.
Empathy and kindness are considered soft skills, and the so-called leaders in the business sector might laugh at them.
Just be approachable, open, showing genuine interest to others can truly make the difference.
Soft skills (I hate calling them "soft"), the so called emotional intelligence that also includes the capacity to understand what's going on in the minds and lives of others, is paramount.
The focus must be on the bottom line but you can drive your revenues by also acting differently, more ethically, aware also that, if you are where you are now in your organigram, it might be because of your hard work and luck but also because of an inborn privilege that, often unconsciously, many take for granted.
The prevailing top down approach to corporate leadership stifles any different style, but there is a new crop of young corporate leaders that can overturn the status quo.
They have the capabilities, the vision and resolution to bring about transformational change in the corporate culture of the country, but they need a chance.
Why can't FNCCI propose a young leadership forum, a discussion group where young but promising employees share their views in order to model a new conversation on good and ethical corporate practices? Can't each single big business house find a way to re-discuss many of its assumptions by giving the chance to its young employees to become "bigger" and more relevant, with a real say, on how business can be improved? Do not get me wrong: I am not talking about flattening the organisational charts of each business house, but there are ways to innovate and give space to new ideas to groom in order to ethically raise the bottom line.
How many B corporations are active in Nepal? Who knows what a B corporation is and how it acts? Perhaps, taking the long route sometimes might create some difficult changes in the short term, but it can also promote new attitudes and behaviours that, once fully practised, would pay off in the long term.
And let's not forget that to achieve a real shift, we need to say "no" to something we are doing now, and this is not easy.
That's why any new code of conduct is just the start of a journey.
Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities
A version of this article appears in the print on December 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.