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Whole Foods CEO Inspires At ASI Dallas

In an uplifting keynote speech at The ASI Show in Dallas, Whole Foods Co-Founder and CEO John Mackey challenged attendees to grow as leaders, find their purpose and rethink the role of business in our world. The problem, he said, is that business is viewed as a vehicle simply to make money, and thus is portrayed as unethical and greedy. "Business, I would argue, is the greatest value creator in the world," he said, noting its power to create "win-win-win-win" propositions for leaders, employees, investors, communities and society as a whole.

After his talk, Mackey sat down with ASI to discuss why a new leadership model is needed now, and if business owners have to sacrifice revenue to create positive change in the world.

In starting a natural grocery store company that has grown to 450 locations worldwide and $16 billion in revenue, Mackey has championed the idea of "Conscious Capitalism and Conscious Leadership," which focuses on the ability of businesses to create good in the world. To do that, he said, requires a new leadership model, where pure intelligence is only a starting point. Effective leaders must have emotional intelligence (the ability to be self-aware and have empathy for others) as well as spiritual intelligence (leading with love, care and compassion while discerning your higher purpose). They must be servant leaders who strive to help others grow and look for people in their organization who do the same.

If the most important day in your life is when you were born, said Mackey, "The second most important day is why you were born: what's your personal purpose and why?" Esquire's Most Inspiring CEO had a simple-but-powerful answer to discover that purpose: follow your heart.

Mackey also underscored the importance of love, and its burial in the corporate world under an avalanche of war, sports and Darwinian metaphors that dictate there must be winners and losers. "I think love is the most underrated quality in business in the 21st century," said Mackey, who has been named one of the Top 50 CEOs in the world by Fortune. He cited a "transformative" example from Whole Foods, where all meetings at the company end with employees vocally stating "appreciations" for each other. "It's hard to stay in judgment of someone," he said, "when they say you're the most wonderful person in the world."

Throughout the talk Mackey delivered insights on growing as a person and leader that revealed his interest in philosophy in college – before he left school to launch the company that would usher a national surge of interest in organic food and natural products. He urged attendees to keep learning while treating crises as an opportunity to be a better person. "Personal growth," he reminded, "is a choice."

After his talk, Mackey sat down with ASI to discuss why a new leadership model is needed now, and if business owners have to sacrifice revenue to create positive change in the world.

Listen to his Podcast below!