How a Benefit Corporation Captures a Millennial’s Heart

Photo by    Kal Loftus

Photo by Kal Loftus

You would have had to be under a rock for the past five years to not have heard about the value of authenticity. I'm talking about authenticity as a brand and authenticity as a leader.

It’s something we hear everyday when we work with leaders of Benefit Corporations who exemplify this in their thinking and behaviors.

And why is authenticity so important?

The reason for so much discussion is clear. Millennials, now the largest consumer group in the U.S., not only value authenticity but they demand it.

Homogeneity isn't a default setting for them. They choose to surround themselves with authentic people -- blue-collar, white collar, musicians, doctors, hair stylists and Peace Corps workers -- the only common bond seems to be that these young men and women live authentically. Elite Daily, the premier online news platform for and by Millennials, reveals in a 2015 research study the following finding:

"43% of Millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. They first have to trust a company or news site before they even bother reading the content that they provide. Blogs are meant to be authentic and many of them are run by a single individual. Millennials connect best with people over logos."

In the workplace, it is even more critical. This generation, which now represents the largest generation in the labor force today, are choosing to work for companies that live and breathe authenticity, which they often find in Benefit Companies. So, if you're a leader steering a company, working to attract the best employees or marketing products to Millennials, this is a wake-up call for you. In fact, the longevity of your brand and future profitability may very much depend on it.

Becoming an authentic leader, however, might be easier said than done. After all, a lot of us are used to "playing a role" in our jobs and in our relationships. But as research shows that is really no longer acceptable.  It’s about being honest and real that will serve leaders best.

So how do you work toward becoming that "true version of yourself" particularly if you're a leader? How do you faithfully reflect the authentic values of people, planet, profit, the triple bottom line, espoused by Benefit Corporations.

Well, Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and author of the book "Authentic Leadership," says 4 key traits are present in every authentic leader:

1. They are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders clearly know their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. Most importantly, they show up the same way whether in the conference room or on the back patio. They do not fear looking weak by admitting their mistakes or weaknesses.

 2. They are mission-driven and focused on results. Authentic leaders work to carry out the mission and achieve the goals of their organization. They seek results for the good of the company, not for their own personal gain. 

3. They lead with their heart. Authentic leaders do not fear showing their emotions or their vulnerability when connecting stakeholders. When communicating with employees or customers, they do so directly but it’s always done with empathy.

4. They focus on the long-term. A key principle in Bill George’s model is that authentic leaders are focused on long-term shareholder value. Authentic leaders realize that to nurture individuals and to nurture a company requires hard work and patience, but the approach pays large dividends over time.

These principles are more than just nice words to banter around.  These ideas are rooted in the hearts of minds of CEOS of companies we have met and certified as Benefit Companies. 

These are our heroes, and the beacon of a new corporate culture needed in our world today. Read more about them here.