Why Woke Leadership Can Be Good For Business


Apple is just one of the major companies that is against the Trump administration ending the immigration program DACA, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 the ability to work. Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines last week when he stated that Dreamers have heavily contributed to the company. In addition, Cook stated that Dreamers “come from diverse backgrounds and display a wide range of skills and experiences that equip them to tackle problems from different perspectives.” A number of organizational leaders feel that revoking DACA would cause their organizations to lose valuable employees. The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Starbucks and many others recently signed a letter that encouraged lawmakers to pass legislation allowing the more than 700,000 DACA recipients the ability to work and live in the United States. The move will not be the last instance of companies and their leaders being more outspoken about policies and social justice issues. What impact(s) can a public stance such as this have on a company’s public perception and their efforts to foster more inclusion?

  1. Favorability among employees. When a company or an organizational leader makes a public stance about an issue that is important to employees, this can have a number of positive effects within the workplace. Research indicates that employees, especially younger workers, want to work for a company that is “woke” and that cares about social justice issues. These issues are important to employees and companies that demonstrate they care about the effect of different policies and how they may impact employees and their families can increase favorability among their employees and make their company more attractive to work for.
  2. Favorability among consumers. In 2017, CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos publicly expressed their opposition to Trump’s travel ban. While having an understanding of the interests and desires of your consumer base can prove profitable, companies that lack this understanding can be deemed as tone-deaf and may suffer negative consequences. Uber had firsthand experience with these consequences in 2017 when many boycotted the company because of the public perception that they were trying to profit off of the travel ban protests that had been taking place. 200,000 people subsequently deleted the Uber app from their phone. The company was also impacted following the news that Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick was a member of Trump’s economic advisory council and backlash ensued. Companies that are not mindful of how aligning with certain policies and issues will impact their consumers may find themselves in the same hot water that Uber did, so having an understanding of the values of your customer base is imperative.
  3. Favorability among potential customers. Not only is being a “woke” company beneficial to gain employee and customer loyalty, but it could also be a great strategy to gain and conquer new markets. Starbucks experienced this first-hand in 2016 when the company released their new plain red cups, removed of the Christmas-themed designs that they had used previously used. Despite the fact that the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump expressed his disdain for the new design, Starbucks reported sales growth during that holiday season. Understanding the values of your consumer base can not only help your company keep your current customers satisfied but can also open the door to new markets and greater profitability.


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