Are You Ready to “Lead With We”?


A critical book on key trends business owners must incorporate to succeed.

Lead with We

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In the 1970s the economist Milton Friedman argued that corporations had no business being socially responsible. In fact, he likened it to socialism. 

Well, author Simon Mainwaring disagrees.  In his second book, Lead with We: The Business Revolution That Will Save Our Future he makes a case for redefining and updating our thinking about the best way to move forward in a world that is exponentially more complex. He posits that neither governments nor private agencies hold the answer.  Instead, he calls on entrepreneurs and businesses to step up to the plate in order to create an economy that is both efficient and profitable.

“Lead with We” is a book about mega trends surrounding the world of business and work.  The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you believe the author and the real-life examples he’s sharing.

I believe Mainwaring.

What I don’t believe is that we, as a business community, are ready for this new purpose driven paradigm.  When I started reading this book, I instantly thought “Woah! The traditional small business owner is going to freak out when they read this!”

Let me be clear, nothing in “Lead With We” was new or confronting to me.  The ideas and mega trends that he’s talking about in this book were a foundation for my MBA — back in 1994! So this is nothing new.  If it were, Mainwaring wouldn’t have so many examples of successful companies to feature.

But — believe me when I tell you, I can see today’s fractured audiences completely flipping out over what you read in this book.

Mainwaring is the Cassandra For Our Times

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy and cursed so that no one would believe her.  As I read through “Lead With We”, I couldn’t help but see Mainwaring in the same light. 

His writing is urgent, almost pleading, and begs you to stop, look, listen and get out of your own way.  You can tell that he’s got a million important and compelling points to make and he’s throwing example and example at you in the hopes that you’ll see what he sees. 

Simon Mainwaring is a futurist who has been promoting the idea that being a purpose driven business isn’t reserved for non-profits.  I reviewed his first book, “We First” back in 2011 — that was ten years ago! And I’d say that the ideas Mainwaring features in “Lead With We”  will be seen as new and radical today — even though they are not. The only difference is that there are more purpose driven companies today.

In “Lead With We” Mainwaring goes beyond profiling the idea of a more purpose driven business economy to showing business leaders examples of what it’s like to lead a more purpose driven business. 

Mainwaring has good reasons for promoting this new “conscious capitalism”; it works, it’s profitable, and it makes for happier companies and customers.

In fact companies that embrace social responsibility average: 

  • increase sales by as much as 20%
  • increase productivity by 13%
  • reduce employee turnover by half
  • protect against litigation risk at a value equivalent to the cost of insurance worth up to 4% of the company’s value
  • increase the company’s share price by up to 6%
  • create a “reputation dividend’ worth up to 11% of market capitalization
  • reduce financial risk, the cost of equity, and the cost of borrowing.

If these results sound good to you, then you’re ready to dive into the “Lead With We” business model.

Introducing the “Virtuous Spiral”

The foundation of “Lead With We” is Mainwarings “Virtuous Spiral” model.  He calls it “Collectivized Purpose in Action”.  This is essentially a roadmap process that takes you from a “Me” mindset to a “We” leadership mindset.

Lead With We Spiral Model

The model seeks to show that any business; large or small, is part of a larger ecosystem. And, when you choose to “Lead With We” your actions impact a much larger universe than the one you see inside the confines of your business.

The entire book is written around this spiral schema.  Each chapter zooms into a stage of the model and incorporates the mega trends Mainwaring has been watching for decades into the mindset today’s businesses need if they are going to flourish.

It starts with shifting your thinking around what today’s capitalism looks like, then moves you toward the new leadership thinkinging. Then, from shifting your mindset as a leader, you evolve into incorporating “We thinking” throughout the company, community and ultimately the world.

Why “Lead With We” is a Must Read

Lead With We” goes on my list of foundational books for any small business owner. It will join other classics such as “E-Myth” and  “Blue Ocean Strategy” because it is a true precursor to how our economy and business environment work. If you’re doing what I call a DIY MBA, put this on your reading list.

This book is not “practical” per se.  It’s a book that challenges your thinking. Don’t expect to breeze through the pages as you would one of those “entertaining” business books.  Instead, prepare to read a few pages (or a few paragraphs) and stop, put the book down, and think about what the author is saying and why.

If you’re part of a business group, mastermind or management team, I’d recommend that you make this required reading and discussing before you do your annual business plan.

All I can say is that I get and read a LOT of business books every week.  And it’s been a long time since I’ve received a book that so thoroughly and urgently makes the case for what it takes to build, run and lead a business in a new economy.  “Lead With We” is one of those books.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."