In my last column, I recommended a superb new book by Whole Foods Founder and CEO John Mackey, along with Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps of the nonprofit Institute for Cultural Evolution.
The book won’t just make you a better businessperson and a better investor.
It will make you a better human being.
That’s an audacious claim, to be sure. It doesn’t stop it from being true, however.
What do conscious leaders do?
- They put purpose first, connecting the team to a vision of how it meets customers’ wants and needs and contributes to the world.
- They lead with love, treating the business as a way to serve and uplift people and communities.
- They innovate and create value, anticipating, harnessing, and adapting to technological and societal change.
- They act with integrity, following not just the letter and spirit of the law but the highest ethical standards.
- They seek win-win-win solutions to every challenge, so that all stakeholders – workers, customers, suppliers and investors – feel rewarded and appreciated.
- They think long term about the impact of their actions and choices.
- They have a commitment to learn and grow, both professionally and personally.
Conscious leadership is not just about running a more successful organization or a more profitable business.
It’s also about unifying people around a higher purpose.
In the book, John gives several examples of companies that embody conscious leadership, including parent company Amazon (perhaps the world’s most customer-conscious company), Disney, Panera, Trader Joe’s, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Tesla, Unilever and many others.
It’s not a coincidence that these companies have also delivered fantastic returns to investors.
In my research, I actively look for companies with conscious leaders. And they show up in the most unlikely places.
Take CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), for example.
On the face of it, CVS is just a chain of 10,000 drugstores. Ho-hum, right?
Hardly. CEO Larry Merlo is a man on a crusade.
He pledges that CVS will challenge and disrupt the status quo, creating a better, more effective and more affordable U.S. healthcare system.
How could a profit-seeking drugstore chain possibly do that?
CVS operates more than 1,100 walk-in MinuteClinics in its stores with expanded healthcare offerings, including in-house blood work.
It is capturing patients who can’t get quick appointments with their primary care doctors – or don’t want one because of the pandemic – as well as those who use emergency rooms for routine care.
The company has five initial areas of focus:
- Improving chronic disease management with care management plans that improve outcomes
- Preventing readmissions by supporting patients during and after discharge
- Increasing the use of lower-cost sites of care, including home infusion where appropriate, to prevent unnecessary ER visits
- Expanding the scope of its MinuteClinic services to help with early diagnosis, better disease management and optimized primary care
- Launching complex chronic disease initiatives that include new oncology products, heart disease interventions and chronic kidney disease management.
CVS targets five common conditions – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma and behavioral health.
The goal is to both improve the quality of healthcare and reduce costs through health and wellness services, site-of-care management, and tighter integration of pharmacy and medical claims.
The company exhibits conscious leadership in other ways too.
It has removed all tobacco products from its stores.
It has embraced new technologies, allowing customers to refill prescriptions through an app and pick them up at any store location.
And it delivers medications directly to patients’ homes with an electronic prescription.
Merlo says, “We’re creating a pathway that no one has gone on in an effort to make healthcare more local and make it more simple.”
His vision is rapidly becoming a reality.
And customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders and local communities are all benefiting.
This is conscious leadership.
John argues that conscious leaders often begin with an inner journey of character development and personal transformation.
I found this the most fascinating part of the book – and perhaps the most important.
So I’ll turn to this idea in my next column.