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Business can change the world

25 May 2015

Professor Kathryn Pavlovich
New styles of leadership and management can help to make the world a better place, says Professor Kathryn Pavlovich.

Business can change the world, according to new Professor of Strategic Management, Kathryn Pavlovich.

Professor Pavlovich gave her Inaugural Professorial Lecture at the University of Waikato this month and said while recent generations have caused massive damage to the planet, we also have the best knowledge and capacity to effect dramatic change for the better.

First, there has to be a shift in our styles of leadership and management and a move away from profiteering at all or any cost, she said.

The professor believes people and businesses can work collaboratively to make change and improve the lives of others. In her lecture, she gave examples where that is already happening, in New Zealand and overseas.

"Leaders need to think about their purpose, their legend, what they want to be known for," she said. "It's more than self-awareness … it's about self and other."

Professor Pavlovich says before we can lead effectively, we have to understand ourselves; what she calls noetic wisdom, which involves inner wisdom, direct knowing and understanding of ourselves, "a combination of science, spirituality and consciousness".

Such a perspective activates the parasympathetic system that enhances our immune system and well-being, which she says makes us more resilient – a combination of mindfulness, reflexivity and empathy.

She teaches her students this, and while it may sound soft, she had testimonies from students who were successfully practising in their day-to-day work what they had learnt in her lectures.

Professor Pavlovich advocates meditation and yoga, "it helps mediate emotion", she gets her students to keep reflective journals – to examine situations and their responses and subsequent actions, "which leads to better decision making", and she has them creating art as a form of expression.

Alongside her teaching and research, Professor Pavlovich is currently chair-elect of the Academy of Management, a US-based global network of management scholars.  The Academy has about 20,000 members from 100 countries. The Management, Spirituality and Religion Interest Group has been one of the fastest growing in the Academy, she says. She has also written widely about her research. Her book, Organising through Empathy is published by Routledge New York, and she has published numerous articles on her subject.

Inaugural professorial lectures are the University of Waikato's way of introducing new professors and their research to the wider community.