Lucas Meijs, RSM
Lucas Meijs, RSM
“Effective business leaders need skills that can be developed in the civil society,” said Lucas Meijs, professor of volunteering, civil society and businesses, and strategic philanthropy at RSM. He said leaders who want to create sustainable change must operate in both the business sector and civil society. “Volunteering experience can enhance your leadership skills,” said the professor.
“The interesting thing about civil society is that you’re responsible for making decisions yourself,” said Prof. Meijs. For example, companies that have a small production run want to sell it all; this is not the case for a food bank, which has a limited supply to give away. “You have to make a subjective decision about who deserves the food and who should stay hungry,” said the professor, asking the audience to think about deciding factors, such as low incomes, religion or the number of children in the family.
Civil society: hierarchy or Zen?
“This is a real leadership challenge,” said Meijs. “Food banks ask the government to make decisions for them. That’s not real leadership, because it’s an important decision.”
Professor Meijs said there’s a diversity of norms and values. “To achieve quality, do we follow procedures and have a clear hierarchy? Or is quality more like Zen, the sound of the engine, the wind in your hair?” Meijs said civil society is about Zen, about understanding what it’s like to have autism, or feeling lonely or hungry. It’s important for making the right decisions.
Leaders have limited power in voluntary organisations, and can’t use bonuses to run them, said the professor. He described an initiative in which volunteers visit lonely people at home and organise holidays for them. Prof. Meijs said the organisation, de Zonnebloem, has more than 40,000 regular volunteers. “Just think of having a 360˚evaluation with all of them like you’d do with employees in a company,” he said. “You can’t change the behaviour of all of those volunteers without incentives. Just imagine how that works.”
Business community action
Meijs, who teaches master classes in non-profit management, called the audience to action for the business community, giving as an example SIRE, in which companies organise social campaigns together. “Marketing and the business community work together to organise these social campaigns, it’s a great concept,” said Prof. Meijs, adding that the United Way of Greater Houston is a good example of the American business community organising for social change. “What you have to do is lead by example,” concluded the professor.