Let’s let Dr. Kimberly Townsend depress us for a moment – because she promises to make it better.
In Lifecircle Leadership: How Exceptional People Make Every Day Extraordinary (Advantage Media Group), Townsend advances a leadership theory of pragmatic altruism. But first she sets the stage by taking a bleak temperature of our times:
- Half of all Americans are unhappy at work.
- Between 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
- A dramatic rise in incidents of alcoholism among American women, attributed largely to increased levels of authority in the workplace.
- More than 40 million Americans diagnosed with anxiety.
- The life expectancy age in America continues to drop.
Ready for some good news? Given this backdrop, Townsend argues that it is now more important than ever to “reconsider how we approach not only business, but one another.” Doing good, she says, is good business.
But is it as simple as that? “It’s not just doing good,” she writes. “It’s also caring for yourself, your company, your community, and getting out from under the constant pressure of our ‘instant-on’ society in a meaningful but realistic way – this is the heart of pragmatic altruism.”
The author, a former stay-at-home mom, knows a thing or two of what she speaks: she has a management degree, law degree, doctorate in executive leadership, and is currently president and CEO of Loretto, a multimillion-dollar continuing care system based in upstate New York.
In her foreword, Meg O’Connell, Executive Director of Allyn Foundation, notes, “All too often employers view employees as almost robots; just get the job done. As Kim highlights, a better business strategy and a better human strategy is to recognize the interconnectedness of employees’ work lives and personal lives….Kim compels leaders and employers to embrace and practice a spirit of pragmatic altruism because it’s good for the bottom line of business and good for employees.”
According to Townsend, “Rather than be mindless participants in the ever-intensifying negativity, each of us has within our grasp the opportunity to find professional satisfaction and personal fulfillment in simply doing good.”
So is Lifecircle Leadership a business book? Is it self-help? A primer on how to live your life? A guide on how to lead? A general plea to humanity? Check off all the boxes. Oh, and one more: It has a surprise ending!
Through her own personal and professional life experiences, Townsend lays the framework for helping leaders understand:
- How to create a positive and uplifting environment in the workplace.
- What makes a good leader and how to empower others.
- The importance of reaching out to the community to truly make a difference.
“Many executives find themselves in the unenviable position of being asked to produce immediate results with fewer resources,” she says. “Unfortunately, for all too many of those beleaguered executives, working harder is the only reasonable solution that they see fit for their predicament.”
Instead, Townsend recommends taking a deep breath and giving yourself sufficient time to review any situation and avoid temptation for a knee-jerk reaction. “Very few situations actually require the sort of time-sensitive turnaround that the initiating party almost always demands.”
In Townsend’s solution, the first rule for managers is to be yourself, “to do what comes naturally.” But at the same time “exercise a certain level of self-awareness and be aware of whatever toxicity they might be bringing into the situation.”
Townsend also found in her work that rather gravitating to the needs and concerns of her piers in the C-suite, she felt an equal obligation and interest to relate to the needs of the typical employee – even though many of those employees felt a natural distance from her, just by the nature of her title.
Despite the huge national and societal challenges we face today, Townsend still believes the solutions can be found by looking within. “There is no need for any drastic legislative action or sweeping social reforms,” she writes. “Just a recommitment by individuals and organizations to simply do the right thing and take care of one another, offering the assistance necessary not to enable those in need but to empower them.”
“What is needed is simply a corporate doctrine that values and perpetuates human decency and little (and not so little) acts of kindness.”
It’s called Lifecircle Leadership.
Lifecircle Leadership: How Exceptional People Make Every Day Extraordinary is available for purchase.
About Kimberly Townsend
Formerly a stay-at-home mom for thirteen years, Kimberly Townsend went back to school in her thirties and received her BS and MBA from Whitman School of Management, her JD from Syracuse University College of Law, her MPA from the Maxwell School of Public Administration and most recently, her doctorate in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College. Dr. Townsend is now the president and chief executive officer of Loretto, a continuing care system located in New York, with assets in skilled nursing, housing, managed care, short-term rehabilitation and medical adult day services. She firmly believes that anyone can succeed by partnering with others to provide higher quality, lower costs, and great experiences. Anyone can be a successful leader by following the path of Lifecircle Leadership.