Frugal Leadership: The Key to Co-Build the Post-Covid-19 world

As the world enters a deep recession that can last till 2022, or even 2015, CEOs and politicians must unlearn the old ways of innovating and adopt frugal innovation, the art of doing better with less. Yet few Fortune 500 companies and countries are innovating frugally on a large scale. Why not?

Here is my answer: the corporate leaders and the political leaders, for the great majority, graduated from schools that train “administrators” (“managers”). Thus, these leaders have been trained to ADMINISTER (manage) RESOURCES (capital, assets, personnel, territories, etc.).

Therefore, the more resources these leaders manage, the more they project the image of POWER. So in their minds this belief that “resources = power” is deeply forged.

Thus, the word “FRUGAL” (to do better with fewer resources) is frightening for these leaders because the frugality of resources symbolizes a LOSS of POWER for them.

Used for centuries to believe that “BIG is BEAUTIFUL”, it’s very hard for leaders, especially in the West, to believe that “SMALL is BEAUTIFUL” (as EF Schumacher said), because it scares them on an EXISTENTIAL level.

It is time that CEOs and political leaders begin to dissociate in their minds this equation “RESOURCES = POWER”. During this COVID-19 crisis, and the loooooong recession that is coming, companies and nations need a new leadership model: FRUGAL LEADERSHIP, which aims to generate more IMPACT (value) for society with fewer (tangible) resources.

A frugal leader creates greater impact on society using fewer resources
A frugal leader creates greater impact on society using fewer resources

Rather than complain that the glass is half empty (SCARCITY of TANGIBLE resources), the resilient and optimistic FRUGAL LEADER always sees the glass as half full (ABUNDANCE of INTANGIBLE resources).

Instead of worrying about the diminishing tangible resources (money, material, personnel), the frugal leader unleashes his business/nation’s creative energy. (S)he taps into the abundant intangible resources — the collective intelligence, ingenuity and wisdom of all employees and citizens — to co-create ingenious and frugal solutions in a decentralized, bottom-up mannerto solve the enormous socio-economic issues that we will face during the next decade.

A frugal leader sees the glass as half full: he uses abundant intangible resources to solve scarcity of tangible resources
A frugal leader sees the glass as half full: he uses abundant intangible resources to solve scarcity of tangible resources

I emphasize “decentralized” because the frugal leader is above all a wise and humble leader who knows how to “let go”: instead of considering him(her)self as omniscient and omnipotent and putting him(her)self in the spotlight all the time, (s)he humbly delegates and amplifies the intelligence of others and helps them realize their full potential in the service of the common good.

As someone said: “To grow, you need to to dilute yourself.” Let’s cultivate and share (dilute) our ESSENCE, instead of wasting our vital energy by clinging to, and trying to expand, our FORMS. It’s time to evolve our leadership paradigms from SAGUNA (with form) to NIRGUNA (without form). A conscious leader is frugal in his presence and action, but optimal in his impact.

A frugal leader is self-effacing and amplifies the intelligence and potential of others
A frugal leader is self-effacing and amplifies the intelligence and potential of others

Written by

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Author of Conscious Society (2021). Visit: NaviRadjou.com

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