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What the Rob Ford Scandal Can Teach Us About Having a Meaningful Career

Rob Ford

People around the world are transfixed by the Rob Ford scandal. News outlets from CBC, and CNN to Jon Stewart and even Saturday Night Live have covered it. While most media is focused on the negative, there is something positive we can learn from the scandal about having a meaningful career.

1. Your personal brand is as important as the work you do.
Rob Ford’s image is tarnished (to say the least). He is not a credible leader and can no longer effectively steward positive change. Regardless of his ‘passion’ for work or how much he loves the city, his behaviour has cracked his personal brand (pun intended) and he can’t be trusted.

In interviews with our Purple Sheep (Bmeaningful professionals who use their skills for good), we’ve learned that to make change happen within a company you often need to rely on your personal clout to get things done. Whether it’s your colleagues, customers or donors, they need to believe in you.

Take for example Bill Gates. He is not only a strong business leader, but also a role model for change who lives the values he preaches. For over 15 years Bill Gates has been leading the Gates Foundation investing over $28 billion dollars (his own fortune) in improving the lives of people around the world. Bill Gates often relies on his personal brand to advocate for the foundation’s issues and attract strategic partners to help create sustainable change.

The Takeaway: When thinking about your career, remember that you are your own brand and your actions can reflect your ability to make change. To have a successful social impact career you need to live and breathe the values you aim to achieve.

2. You are the company you keep.
Whether we like it or not, people are judged and influenced by the company they keep. Surrounding yourself with gangsters, drug dealers and vodka bottles makes you associated with just that.

As Jim Rohn, a successful entrepreneur famously said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Ask any change maker and they will tell you that they could not have done it alone. That collaboration and relationships with other like-minded do-gooders was critical for success.

In 2010, 40 of the richest billionaires came together and signed the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign asking the world’s wealthiest individuals to commit the majority of their fortune to philanthropy. Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, spearheaded this initiative after conversations they had with other philanthropists. In the Gates’ pledge they noted the power of the group: “Everyone shared how giving had made their lives richer. Everyone who attended was inspired by listening to the others’ passion and encouraged to do even more”.

The Takeaway: To excel in your career, you should surround yourself with other like-minded professionals who want to use their skills for good. It will not only help inspire you but will ultimately lead you to success. It’s ok if your current network doesn’t include other change makers. There are so many groups, events and meetups for you to expand your network. Scour sites like MaRS, Centre for Social Innovation, and Eventbrite for social change events that interest you. Consider getting involved with local groups like Rotary to kickstart your network of change makers.

As the Rob Ford reality show continues to play out in the political sphere, there are real leaders around the world like Gates and Buffett working on solving the world’s toughest problems. Let’s focus on them. Here’s to true leadership.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Maarten Jan Sluimers. Sustainability Manager. ING DIRECT Canada

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