Moonrise – Book Review

Moonrise - The Power of Women Leading from the Heart Book CoverThe stories in Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart edited by Nina Simons with Anneke Campbell may change the way you view leadership.

The 37 narratives in Moonrise are as diverse as the women, and a few men, who wrote them. These artists, business people, and activists demonstrate that vulnerability and strength are not mutually exclusive. Leading from the heart is for everyone.

I first saw Nina Simons speak during a 2012 Bioneers conference. She radiated warmth and genuineness and at times shed tears without apology. I was surprised and touched. I’d never seen anyone cry on a conference stage before. After the conference, I searched for books by Simons and came across Moonrise.

Book Review

Our life experiences and personal filters ensure a unique adventure for each reader. I approached Moonrise from a business perspective. My concept of leadership was influenced by over two decades of working for Corporate America. Leadership was about corporate goals, quarterly profits, and getting the job done no matter what (not necessarily bad things but narrowly focused). Employees, managers, and executives were encouraged and expected to leave their personal lives and hearts at home.

Readers from all backgrounds are sure to find something that speaks to her or him in one or more of the stories in Moonrise.

Each piece is introduced by Simons and followed by a brief bio of the author. The essays are grouped into five parts:

  1. Knowing Our Selves, Our Inner Landscape, and Our Sense of Purpose
  2. Leadership Sourced from Inner Authority
  3. Reweaving the Web of Connection
  4. Renegotiating Power: Generosity, Mentorship, and Respectful Relations
  5. Restoring the Feminine in Our Strategies, Institutions, and Culture
How Art Can Heal Broken Places

Of all the stories, How Art Can Heal Broken Places by Lily Yeh moved me the most. Yeh describes how creating a community park on a vacant lot in a neglected neighborhood led to a global art program for healing battered and war-torn areas. In a way, it all started when she approached one of the most feared and respected men in the neighborhood and asked for his help. By exposing her own vulnerability (not knowing where or how to begin), he was able to use his strength in a positive way (influencing and gaining the participation of the neighborhood).

Dialogue, Action, and Economics

While reading Moonrise, I marked several passages that struck me as important. A few are included below.

“Dialogue offers us the possibility to change, to give up the rigidity of our opinions for the sacred heart of stories where we remember who we are and who we are not and what binds us together rather than what tears us apart.”

The Open Space of Democracy, by Terry Tempest Williams

“We have to shift the way we look at direct action. But also we have to realize there is no such thing as a nonaction. By not doing anything, we’re absolutely shaping the way the world is becoming.”

Direct Action on Behalf of the Earth, by Julia Butterfly Hill

“Basic economics, even conventional economics, teaches that when you tax something, you get less of it. It is the building block of every first-year economics class, but in our culture and on our continent, we tax things we want more of—we tax jobs, we tax income, and we tax investment. At the same time we don’t tax things that are harmful—we don’t tax pollution, we don’t tax sprawl, we don’t tax the wasteful use of natural resources.”

Transforming Economics, by Donna Morton

The Bottom Line

Nina Simons is the co-founder of Bioneers, a national nonprofit organization that brings people of diverse backgrounds and skills together to work on breakthrough solutions to environmental and social challenges. She is a gifted storyteller herself.

The stories in Moonrise are far ranging and some appealed to me more than others. Yet they were all interesting and informative. Moonrise is not a “how to” book about women’s leadership. It is a collection of inspiration and possibilities.

I believe both women and men interested in a broader interpretation of leadership will find something of interest and value in Moonrise. It should be required reading for all MBA candidates, managers, and executives. I look forward to the day when bringing your authentic self and heart to work is not only accepted but encouraged. I predict it will have a positive impact on employee engagement and the bottom line.

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Resources

Building Social Business — Book Review

Building Social Business Book CoverI learned of Muhammad Yunus, the author of Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs while researching microfinance.

Yunus is a pioneer in the microfinance industry. During the 1970s, he founded Grameen Bank, a microfinance institution in Bangladesh.

I was fascinated by the work of Yunus and wanted to learn more so looked for additional reading material. Building Social Business looked intriguing and it was.

Book Review

Building Social Business introduces a new business model called a social business which exists to solve a social problem not to generate profit and dividends for investors. Yunus believes that people are not just driven by maximizing profit, that every person, capitalists included, wants to do something for the good of other people.

The book describes two social business models as follows:

  • Type I – is a non-loss, non-dividend company devoted to solving a social problem and owned by investors who reinvest profits in expanding and improving the business.
  • Type II – is a profit-making company owned by poor people, either directly or through a trust that is dedicated to a predefined social cause.

Social business characteristics are outlined in chapter 1 and reinforced throughout the book. To paraphrase:

  1. The business objective is to solve a social problem not to maximize profit.
  2. The company needs to attain financial and economic sustainability.
  3. Investors only get back their initial investment, no dividends.
  4. After the investment is paid back, profits stay with the company for expansion and improvement.
  5. The company will be environmentally conscious.
  6. The workforce is paid market wages and has good working conditions.
  7. Do it with joy!!!

There is a lot of discussion about funding for social businesses including foundations, non-governmental organizations, joint ventures with for-profit companies, and people who want to invest in a company working for the common good.

An interesting dichotomy is what Yunus refers to as cross-subsidization, wherein, some people, those who can afford it, pay more for the same product that is sold to poor people at a lower price. This method enables a company to obtain funds to stay in business and provide a product to more affluent and poor people.

Yunus has been involved in the start up several social businesses and uses real-life examples to provide practical information and advice for people interested in starting one of their own.

The Bottom Line

Readers don’t need a business degree to understand the concepts shared in Building Social Business. It provides a viable alternative, perhaps more of a companion, to profit-driven businesses. I agree with Yunus, I believe people are both selfish and selfless. Perhaps it is time for some of us to give our selfless side more exercise.

I recommend Building Social Business to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of what business can achieve and an alternative way of measuring business success.

Yunus has previously written, Banker To The Poor, and Creating a World Without Poverty, which both look like worthwhile reads.

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