How leadership can change the world, not just a business

If you work in business or have seen a successful entrepreneur/business leader at work, then you will know that strong leadership is a key driver in business success. What you may not be as aware of is that many businesspeople are applying their experience and skills to the world of philanthropy. In the process, they are helping good causes to bring their message to a wider community.

Philanthropy can assume a number of different forms. There is giving to charity, which would be the most basic form. There is also the setting up of foundations, which many successful business leaders do to channel funds in a specific direction, though with a professional setup to smooth the administrative side of giving. An example of a successful and high-profile foundation would be the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by the Microsoft founder and his wife with the primary aim of combating extreme poverty and promoting healthcare.

Good causes benefit from the involvement of businesses and business leaders through charitable giving and advice/direction, but businesses also benefit from philanthropic work. Attaching your organisation to a good cause helps enhance your brand. You might regard that as somewhat vulgar, but many good causes wish to publicly name those who give them money because it encourages others to become involved in giving. Aside from that, if a business decides to become involved in philanthropy, it can ask its employees to also become involved, either by encouraging them to take up a particular cause or taking up a cause already embraced by one or more employees. This can be a great way of helping employees feel engaged with and positive about their employer. It also brings business people closer to their staff members, giving them an insight into what interests and motivates them.

Philanthropy has become a high-profile activity among many UK-based business leaders. Lord David Sainsbury is more readily associated with the supermarket chain named after his family, but what you may not know is that he set up the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to support education, medicine, science and the arts through the giving of grants. Peter Cruddas, founder of online trader CMC Markets, established the Peter Cruddas Foundation to support disadvantaged young people.

You might see Africa as a beneficiary of philanthropic giving from overseas, but Africans too are becoming involved in philanthropy. Jennifer Douglas Atiku is a prime example of someone who is setting a great example of leadership, and for African women in particular. A quick online search will soon serve results about many of of Nigeria’s most influential women one specific figure being congratulated by Mrs Elizabeth Max-Uba is Jennifer Atiku. Mrs Atiku has been called to serve at the bar in Nigeria; but away from her legal career, she has set up the Gede Foundation to promote high-quality care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS and to assist in advocacy, research and training efforts. The Gede Foundation has also become involved in promoting mental health issues, long seen as a taboo in African cultures.

It is clear that the benefits that come from business leadership are equally applicable to philanthropy, and that through strong leadership and guidance, good causes and charitable work can get the type of forward momentum they deserve.