It takes a conscious leader to thrive in the future of work.
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What makes a great leader? It’s a question that has obsessed Eva Yazhari for years. Yazhari is the cofounder and CEO of Beyond Capital Fund, an early-stage investment fund that aims to improve lives with its investments, as well as the author of The Good Your Money Can Do, a book about becoming a conscious investor. It’s that last adjective—conscious—that Yazhari says is key to being a leader in the future of work.
I caught up with Yazhari recently to hear her thoughts on what makes a successful leader in today’s world—especially after the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare our social inequities like never before. Her vision of leadership is more than just feel-good “how to succeed in business” talk. It’s a true paradigm shift, leading us away from structures built on profit alone at all costs, and toward a future of collective abundance where all of us can thrive.
Manon DeFelice: Why do we need to redefine what it means to be a leader?
Eva Yazhari, CEO of Beyond Capital, a nonprofit impact investment fund.
Photo courtesy of Eva Yazhari
Eva Yazhari: We hear of leaders in every context of our lives, from school to work to government to activism—yet its definition, “a person or thing that leads,” seems to be overshadowed by less charitable facts. Oftentimes, some leaders are more motivated by dollar signs in the distance than the beating hearts in front of them.
That’s why the word “leader” on its own has never held much appeal for me. I know I’m not alone when I say that what resonates today is the idea of a conscious leader. That’s a person who carries a torch to inspire and drive others while also considering everyone and everything in their orbit.
DeFelice: What makes a conscious leader?
Yazhari: I think of a conscious leader as someone who seeks to lead with purpose and inclusion. They think about those beyond their periphery when making decisions—and always reach for the win-win solution (or the win-win-win). They’re committed to leading with integrity, making their commitment not just to the financial bottom line achievable but also to the wellbeing, growth, fair treatment and inclusion of those involved in the journey.
Rather than a leader with an autocratic drive and a willingness to exploit others to get to their goal, a conscious leader considers, cares for and honors. This type of leadership exists to serve, not the other way around.
Conscious leaders embody four qualities: a purpose-driven inclusive mindset; a willingness to look beyond short-term goals and toward a holistic, long-term approach; an innovative view of a leader as someone who shares power and helps people grow and perform; and a recommitment to the intrinsic fact that all humans are equal simply by virtue of being born.
DeFelice: How can we successfully lead by putting the focus on others?
Yazhari: First, we need to understand that conscious leadership is the needed breakdown of stereotypes that have plagued humanity for centuries. Serving and considering others is the only way we can move forward in a humane way, because the status quo is too damaging.
An emphasis on shareholder primacy has amounted to consequences that are not in favor of employees, customers, the environment and communities. The effects have been profound and harrowing. Leading with a scarcity mindset has resulted in expanding global inequity, extreme poverty, racism, a depleted planet and massive social inequalities. There is no true wealth and prosperity unless these issues are taken into consideration and all stakeholders involved in long-term goals are seen and considered.
In the 16-plus years that I have been working in the venture capital and asset management industries, the people who have most inspired me lead with candor, curiosity and appreciation, and empower others to do the same. This genuineness has a ripple effect, causing everyone’s tides to rise in recognition that there is plenty for all.
DeFelice: How can being a conscious leader create opportunities for companies?
Yazhari: Conscious leadership values all that is possible—from a company’s success to an employee’s inspired efforts. Out of our portfolio of 14 investments at Beyond Capital, we have seen that one of the major ingredients to success is a leader or leaders who are looking beyond simply the financial bottom line. This builds teams that are inspired to execute their conscious leader’s vision, and they’re emboldened to think differently about business strategies.
Kasha exemplifies this. Operating in Rwanda and Kenya, Kasha provides women in both rural and urban areas the ability to order affordable products—menstrual care items, soaps, lotions, makeup, family planning care—in an easy and discreet way. The company turns a profit, but its founders, Joanna Bichsel and Amanda Arch, focus on the holistic impact the company has beyond the measurable financial returns. Working hand-in-hand with the government, employees, customers, suppliers and their local communities in Africa, these two women are true conscious leaders. I’m certain that their long-term goals will positively impact more lives than if they only focused on their bottom line.
DeFelice: What are some tips for leaders who want to make this mindset shift?
Yazhari: There is no one magic straight shot to this, as we all vary, but some ways to get started include:
It has been said countless times that money is power. But true power, the kind that impacts lives, breaks glass ceilings and moves humanity forward, is found in courage, inspiration and inclusivity. When a leader has the courage to see that all humans are equal and that their role is to honor and inspire, that is where life-changing power is found—and conscious leaders hold the key.