By Kevin Thomas, Executive Director
SHARE’s mission is to mobilize investor leadership to build a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy.
There are two very different ideas about what leadership means, each with different implications for how we act in the world.
A pervasive view of leadership is what academics call the “trait model,” which states that leaders are people who have certain traits. This idea, that success is due entirely to one’s innate qualities, is a popular one amongst CEOs and many boards of directors.
What comes from this view of leadership is that we just need to find great leaders and trust in them to fix the problems that confront us.
The other view of leadership is called the “process-based” approach. From this perspective, leadership isn’t an identity or intrinsic quality. Instead, it is a set of actions. It’s something you do, it’s something you demonstrate. And it can be exercised by anyone, regardless of their title.
What flows from this view is that no matter who we are, what we do matters – what we do has consequences.
I find this leadership approach much more compelling when thinking about challenges such as climate change and a just transition to a low-carbon economy, or the global effort to eradicate forced labour. Modern capitalist economies are not easily directed from above, or by individuals acting alone. They have far too many working parts to be easily steered. Instead, change results from the collective efforts of many “small-L” leaders.
Collective leadership means that none of us is expected to shoulder the burden of acting alone. Change is made not by any one of us carrying all the weight, but by all of us contributing what we can to the best of our abilities. Not surprisingly, this lesson is at the heart of Indigenous worldviews that value participation in community rather than individualized approaches.
And that’s what SHARE’s investor network has been doing this past year: participating in an active community. You have been speaking to asset managers about voting in favour of key shareholder resolutions. You have endorsed public statements urging companies and governments to act on critical issues like climate change. Some answered our call to meet with regulators, and lent your names to changing Canadian markets for the better.
You’ve filed shareholder resolutions to advance critical dialogues. Many of you have worked with SHARE to engage companies or vote proxies on your behalf, reinforced by like-minded investors in our network of over $22.5 billion in assets under management.
Together, we’ve built partnerships between investors and investment managers, Indigenous organizations, policy experts, worker representatives, political and business leaders and others to find solutions to problems and create new opportunities.
In every case, you were able to act because over the past 19 years we’ve built a community and network that enables, supports, and amplifies that action without requiring any one investor to bear the burden alone.
We’ve never needed leadership more than we do today, but I’m proud to say that institutional investors just like yourselves are providing it. Let’s all build on that leadership in 2019, and let’s encourage other institutions to join with us so we can be even stronger together.
That’s what we mean when we talk about mobilizing investor leadership.