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In a world where technology shapes every aspect of our lives, the role of tech leaders has never been more crucial. The choices they make, the values they live by and the principles they follow can shape not only the future of business, but the direction of our society.
As their products and brands reach so many people, tech leaders have the power to influence the tech world, the business world and even the entire global community.
Who is considered a “tech leader?” Anyone who’s a founder or a senior manager in a small startup up to the biggest tech corporations who wishes to change people’s lives through technology. This article explores the significance of tech leaders embracing ethical values and making choices that contribute to a better world.
1. Values conveyed through tech
“Actions speak louder than words,” as the saying goes, and this principle was vividly demonstrated during the 2023 Web Summit controversy. CEO Paddy Cosgrave made remarks concerning the West’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself against the terror group Hamas, in response to the Oct. 7 terror attack and the massacre of over a thousand civilians in their own homes. This event resulted in a profound loss of innocent lives. In response to Cosgrave’s comments, several prominent sponsors, including Google, Amazon, Intel, Stripe, TikTok and other high-profile speakers chose to withdraw from the conference.
Their choice to depart sends a powerful message about the significant importance of ethical values. These actions by tech giants demonstrated a commitment to humanity, as well as an understanding of the long-term impact their actions will have on their brands, revenue and global influence. It showcased a sense of maturity and responsibility in the often capitalistic business world. Tech leaders should use this example as a guiding light to influence the global business world positively.
Action steps for tech leaders:
- Establish clear policies that underline your commitment to ethical values and human rights.
- Create decision-making frameworks that prioritize ethical considerations in all business decisions, same as sponsorships and collaborations.
- Ensure transparent communication with stakeholders about your ethical policies and practices.
- Take swift action in situations that challenge your company’s ethical values.
2. Embracing notions you care about
Tech leaders, whether small or large, must realize that their choices and values can either contribute to the growth of a just and inclusive society or lead to discrimination and divisiveness. The business world has witnessed numerous instances where leaders’ decisions have significantly impacted.
For instance, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, chose environmental activism for the company, known for its outdoor clothing and gear. Chouinard has prioritized sustainability, and the company actively works to reduce its environmental footprint.
Patagonia donates a percentage of its profits to grassroots environmental organizations and has even taken legal action against the U.S. government over environmental issues. This commitment to ethical and environmental values sets an example for other businesses to follow.
Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, is a staunch advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. Under his leadership, Intel has set ambitious diversity goals and allocated significant resources to promote these values, both within the company and across the tech sector. Gelsinger’s vision is best summarized by his statement: “Diversity, equity and inclusion accelerate innovation, attract top talent, deepen employee engagement and improve the bottom line.”
Action steps for tech leaders:
- Choose notions you care about and commit to leading by example of how you apply them in and out of your business activity.
- Implement periodic audits to evaluate your company’s adherence to these notions and share these findings publicly to maintain transparency and accountability.
- Dedicate a portion of your profits to support your notions or related causes, enhancing your company’s impact on society.
- Actively participate in community-oriented projects to strengthen your company’s ties with society and demonstrate your commitment to ethical values.
3. Be a guardian of ethical values in the artificial intelligence era
Tech leaders bear the responsibility of shaping and adapting values in response to the ever-evolving tech landscape, especially through the era of AI, which can do much good — yet also much harm — if not managed properly.
For example, take IBM’s CEO Arvind Krishna, who focused on Responsible AI Development IBM and has emphasized the responsible development and use of artificial intelligence. The company, like many others these days, is actively engaged in creating AI systems that are transparent, fair and accountable. IBM’s AI Fairness 360 toolkit and AI Ethics Board are initiatives that aim to address bias and promote ethical AI. Krishna’s commitment to ethical AI aligns with the company’s long-standing values, emphasizing the importance of responsible technology.
Action steps for tech leaders:
- Develop ethical guidelines for AI to prioritize the creation of ethical frameworks for AI technologies.
- Allocate resources to research aimed at understanding and reducing biases in AI systems.
- Foster industry collaboration with other industry leaders to develop and promote industry-wide standards for responsible AI development.
Tech leaders’ actions and decisions can have a ripple effect throughout the business world, inspiring a collective shift towards more ethical and responsible practices.
In conclusion, tech leaders possess the power to shape a better world by setting an example of ethical values and contributing to a more just and inclusive society. By embracing values that prioritize humanity and long-term impact over short-term gain, tech leaders can pave the way for a brighter future where technology serves as a force for good rather than discrimination or divisiveness. The world is watching, and there is no better time for tech leaders to lead with their values.