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John Mackey: Lessons for Leaders in Conscious Capitalism

I recently attended a talk with John Mackey, owner of the Whole Foods grocery chain (recently purchased by Amazon). Mackey spoke of the ideals of conscious capitalism – a method for re-imagining our business system to build a more cooperative, positive and prosperous future.

Successful businesses today get a bad rap. It all seems to be about money and garners little respect from intellectuals and the masses. It’s frequently positioned as taking advantage of employees, ripping off consumers, hurting the environment, and breaking up communities. Why is this? To Mackey, we, as business people, don’t do a good job marketing ourselves.

According to Mackey, there are four Components to the Conscious Capitalist Model.


He believes that business has a higher purpose – to create more value. Furthermore, this is ethical because it’s based on a voluntary exchange of resources. It has a noble quality as well because it elevates existence. That makes it heroic because it lifts people out of poverty.

Yet, for many, the purpose of business is solely to make money –

Mackey thinks this is an odd premise. What’s the purpose of a doctor? To heal people. However, they’re usually the highest paid people in society. All professions harken back to a higher purpose, teachers, architects, even attorneys.

Mackey believes business needs profit to fuel its higher purpose. For example, Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information. This higher purpose helps to unify society and provides a massive transformative function. In turn, it inspires people and teams to create positive change.

Stakeholder Integration:

Stakeholders are integral to a business’ value chain – they play a significant role. In order to grow a business, leaders must recognize the importance of stakeholders and treat them as human beings first and foremost. Leadership should hire the best people, train them, and make them happy. Stakeholders then, in turn, will ensure clients are happy. This value creation continues by pleasing investors and resulting in a win/win/win situation.

The value chain extends to another level – the supplier stakeholder. Mackey recommends treating suppliers as your partners, not just vendors, and to consider them as part of your win/win engagement. Don’t’ treat anyone like a sucker or a fool in your financial dealings with vendors, but rather approach them as aware, conscious partners and find a happy medium. He professes that if you do the right thing by everyone you deal with, things will work out.

Ultimately, the value creation extends to delighted, repeat clients, and a vibrant, responsive community – and from here, the cycle continues.

Conscious Leadership

Mackey views this as the most important of the tenets. You can put all the foundational components for this model in place, but, without a conscious leader, your possibilities will be stunted, and your company can go off its path, and be ruined.

What are the qualities of a conscious leader? Conscious leaders are authentic, passionate, and self-aware. They possess high levels of analytical, emotional and systems intelligence, with an affinity for servant leadership and high integrity. They embed a shared purpose into their organizations and help their teams evolve and grow, guided by love and care.

At the end of the day, the biggest challenge for leaders is to maintain the awareness required to manage, make wise decisions, and evolve in positive, constructive directions as human beings.

The Conscious Culture

Mackey stipulates that it’s simply smart business to create a culture that recognizes the richness and depth of humanity – one that seeks to affirm, nurture and cultivate these qualities. By doing so, you create a team that’s powerful, and that’s a market differentiator.

According to Mackey, the characteristics of a conscious culture are TACTILE: Trust, Accountability, Care, Transparency, Integrity, Loyalty, and Egalitarianism.

To conclude, Mackey offered a few final recommendations:

  • End all meetings with a round of appreciations. Thank the team and members of the group, which will help people connect. It’s proven to be so powerful that Whole Foods limited them to only three appreciations per meeting.
  • Implement servant leadership. If you’re an entrepreneur, be conscious about your value creation. Make this known to your team as well. Don’t take it for granted that they understand this.
    Lead by example. Teach via what you do, not by what you say. You need to exemplify the type of leadership that shows the way.
  • Promote and live the standards of your company. Speak about ethics and live them. If you’re not consistent, caring and fair, people will see this. Make good and wise choices based on these standards.

According to Mackey, says building a successful business is the fun part – mentoring people, and creating success for others is what’s so rewarding. There will always be challenges, you just need to regroup and overcome them. This is what makes the true leaders stand out.

To see how Intivix incorporates Conscious Capitalism into our work culture to increase service value and effect for our valued clients, get in touch with our team today at (415)-543-1033 or [email protected].