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The Spiritual Mindset of Thought Leadership | David Weitzner

The Spiritual Mindset of Thought Leadership | David Weitzner

Bringing a Spiritual Mindset to the Workplace

An interview with David Weitzner about Connected Capitalism, the changing generational workforce, and the spiritual purpose of business.

Decades of economic principles have been written in stone, followed blindly by leaders and scholars alike. But, as with all things, stone erodes over time. Our guest today is ready to shatter the rock, and set minds free. Listen in!

Today, we’re honored to speak with David Weitzner, author of Connected Capitalism and Fifteen Paths.  David primarily identifies as a philosopher, but has spent time as a music industry executive, a professor of management, and has spent nearly two decades studying the philosophies that make our economic principals work. Now, he teaches at York University, where he advocates for co-creation, not management.

David shares with us some of his deep thoughts, explaining the meaning of the term “Connected Capitalism,” and how it differs from Conscience Capitalism or ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). David also explains how Connected Capitalism offers a deeper sense of spiritualism and harmony; two traits which are often thought of as taboo in the modern business world – but traits that are helping today’s leaders break old boundaries and forge new paths..

In this episode, we discuss the generational shift in business, and how employees are concerned about staying true to their values as well as finding success in their careers. This move away from the old mindset of “chasing the dollar” will, over time, change many of the financial models and practices that have stood for decades.

This episode is full of philosophical, economical, and socially responsible advice that leaders and employees of any generation can put to use. It’s the cutting edge of financial thought leadership – and it’s all right here!

Three Key Takeaways:
  • People want Thought Leadership that answers big questions; ideas that will help them reopen, rebuild, or pivot their business for the pandemic and post-pandemic age.
  • Thought Leadership can be the key to helping decision-makers open their process to new voices – without creating chaos.
  • Can your thought leadership help employees find meaning in their work? Does it connect them into a society, and help them find a sense of wonder in their job?

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.


Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome, this is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership. This is going to be an interesting episode. My guest is David Weitzner from Canada. He is. He has a joint Ph.D. in Strategy and Ethics, as well as an MBA in arts and media management and, of course, a B.A. in Philosophy. So this is. This is going to be a blast. David is the coauthor of a new book called Connected Capitalism, Capitalism, How Jewish Wisdom Can Transform Work. So he’s got a lot of other accomplishments and publications and all that sort of fun stuff as well. He lives in Toronto and is currently feeling not great because of the second vaccine. So congratulations for feeling crappy.

David Weitzner That’s right. You know, look, dude, it’s anything that I have to do to get back across the border. I miss New York and L.A. and San Fran and the rest of the US. I need the vaccine. I’ll do it.

Peter Winick Exactly. Or worth being vax? I hope so cool. So talk a little bit about, you know, so you’re. If we have to put you in a category, it’s academic, right? And I love the eclectic blend of your education that just shows up on this from philosophy to MBA in media management. And that means you have the business sense and then the PhD and strategy and ethics, which I think is probably more closely related to the book. So give me give me the gist of what the book is and how it relates.

David Weitzner So the version of the book really the journey as it started with my last book. So my last book was called Fifteen Paths, and the tagline of that book was a disillusioned business professor reaching out to his artistic heroes for guidance. And so I spent a year talking to the rock stars that I love and adore and other artists who are really entrepreneurs, and their approach to business is different. And I spent a year learning from them, and then we were having an event actually in New York City. It was actually an event in Brooklyn with Lee Rinaldo of Sonic Youth and Nels Cline of Wilco, and we started talking. And what came out of the discussion is that it was spirituality, and we’ll define it carefully soon. But it was really spirituality that motivates their business approach to entrepreneurship, the way they started thinking about business. And it sort of clicked that I was skirting the real topic I wanted to cover. You know, I was talking to artists and it’s safe to talk about art and creativity. But spirituality is a bit of a taboo, except for what I realized is our definition of spirituality, which is a sense of meaning. Connection and wonder is already there in the business world. It’s already there in the business research. We know these things are important, but we were afraid to call it that. Instead….

Peter Winick Well, stay there for a second. Because if we were to talk to an artist, a poet, a musician or whatever, no problem talking about that. What drives you, what got you to, you know, something came to me and then the song poured out of me, et cetera, et cetera, right? But you know, the last meeting I’m in and that was a pretty good presentation of the deck. And it’s well, yeah, just sort of came to me and I was just the vessel to, you know, vomit forth pages on slides. And that’s not how we roll in business, but you’re saying it sort of is.

David Weitzner But it is right. It is. It’s what we call innovation. You know, that’s what. Yeah, and the tech guys and gals aren’t afraid to use that language. That’s really where I got, you know, a lot of my inspiration from a lot of the folks who I interview in the book are in the tech sector where they’re not afraid to use the sort of terminology and to really play off book. You know, there’s an interview in the book where I talk with someone who explains that in his consulting practice, he abandons a product nap, right? So the customer hires him to do. X meets, as I wanted to do. ABC comes back a year later hasn’t done any of that, but shows them what they have created. And they’re like, Wow, that’s amazing. Yeah, that’s just where the inspiration was. And we do that. You know, we’re accepting that in the tech world. I mean, even us regular folks.

Peter Winick But is it because the tech world is so forward looking? It’s there’s a sense of not all technologies, obviously, but visionary taking you where we haven’t been before. You know, being able to connect people in new and creative ways, all that stuff. So there is a bit of yes.

David Weitzner But I think it’s because they’re in an acknowledged disruptive environment. So they have the leeway right now. We’re all in that disruptive environment. You know, I’ll give you an easy example, right? So Quora events and L.A. based company, they made the tents for the Coachella music festival. Mm hmm. Once the pandemic hit, they had to pivot quickly and they pivoted to create a hospital tent. OK, and it’s that same sort of moment of inspiration, whereas if it wasn’t for the pandemic, they would have stayed in their box. Right? But the pandemic hit. They said, Oh my, our business model is in trouble. Why don’t we do something that’s meaningful? That’s socially important? Yeah, we have the tacit knowledge. Let’s pivot and make these tents to help in the crisis. And so it’s not just the tech world right now, I think post-pandemic that are going to be. Called on to rethink and be forward looking and innovative. I think it’s all sectors. So I think the time is right to take that thinking.

Peter Winick So when you talk about connected capitalism, how is that similar and probably at the same time, a bit different in the things we’re currently familiar with conscious capitalism and ESG. And yeah, I mean, and that’s not even sort of fringe anymore. That’s moving closer and closer and closer every day to mainstream.

David Weitzner I think there’s many ways that it’s different, but I think one of the most important ones is there’s this idea and conscious capitalism where ESG that essentially you’re doing well by doing good, right? That’s the model, and the data doesn’t support that. There isn’t a positive correlation between increased profitability and doing the right thing. We know that now. And so that’s the push. I think it’s ultimately not going to work long term, and it’s not particularly interesting to me because it’s also in general giving specific normative principles guidance, right? It’s how it’s latching onto an instrument and saying, I’m going to be honest, what I’m pushing is something different. What I’m pushing is saying, if we bring this connected mindset, the spiritual mindset to the workplace, then actually your day-to-day business activities are themselves ethical. So in other words, under conscious capitalism, you have to do good. And the classic sense in my model, if you’re innovating, that’s a moral good. If you create a new financial product, that’s a moral good. In other words, the activities that we don’t usually label as moral become moral. If you’re doing it under the guidance of meaning, connection and

Peter Winick wonder, Well, what if I’m innovating? You know, Jewel was an innovation in nicotine delivery. So that’s good. So it’s very interesting with every year, but

David Weitzner I’ll put a pushback on that. I’ll say this. I’ll say when they innovated, their hope was that they would undo some of the harm around traditional tobacco consumption. So, at the time of founding, I will say it was a good. Now we know it has its own health problems and its own addictive properties, and so to continue the business model today would be problematic. But I wouldn’t have viewed them as a moral or a problematic at their moment of founding. And there could be in another world, a social good in a product like that.

Peter Winick You know, if you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave us a review and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps, as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcasts. So, you know, we’re living in an age now where things that were, you know, literally sort of chiseled in stone of the of the business. Milton Friedman, where, you know, the purpose of business is to make money that you hear CEOs of Fortune 100. It’s not like, you know, Ben and Jerry to stoner dudes talking about it, but like Fortune 50 CEOs gone. Well, I think Friedman was wrong. I’m like, You know, I want to get a refund for my economics degree from the 80s because that’s what it was all about, right? Right. And that’s not just PR. What’s driving that is that sort of the connectedness.

David Weitzner So it is there’s a few things going on here, and some of them are, I would say, are more controversial to acknowledge them. Some of them are easier. One thing that I think is less controversial is the generational shift. The fact is, there’s a whole generation of folks coming into the workplace right now who grew up on social media, who grew up telling their story, who are more interested in how they presented themselves and staying true to their values than chasing the dollar that the data there. I mean, Deloitte did a whole. Right. So we know the demands are different coming from there. That’s number one. Another one, though, that’s a little more controversial, is when Friedman wrote financial capital was scarce. I don’t think that’s true anymore. It’s not that hard to get people or how there’s a lot of VCs looking for someplace to dump their money. Right? So when financial capital isn’t the scarce resource anymore, then you move on to the other things like the social capital, like the people and the people are switching in values of the generation’s demands are shifting. Then all of a sudden, and that becomes more important. So it’s not that Friedman was wrong. I think Friedman was very right in his time. But I think so many things on the ground have changed since then that we need to think about as connected capitalism because we are in an environment where financial capital is flush, where the workforce has higher demands. You know, here’s another one, right? Cities used to compete for factories to be built. Right now, we know that it’s going the other way. So when Amazon tried to push New York, New York, you no forget it, you know?

Peter Winick Well, not all of New York, but nobody. But I think your point on Friedman is interesting is the context of at the point. He wrote that if the scarcest resource is capital, it was probably right. Right. Because right now, not that. Not that, you know, you walk down the street, people just throw money at you. But it’s not that hard right now.

David Weitzner No, not at all.

Peter Winick So, so I want to pivot for a minute, David. So we’ve got this thought leadership. We’ve got this book, we’ve got this research. And I love the academic piece because this isn’t some goofy made up hypothesis from some, but it is data underneath this. What’s the application? What are the underlying business implications in Apple? So if I’m a, you know, a business person, or if you wanted to take your thought leadership into the business community, how else might you get it out there? Because books, as we know as a business model, are pretty awful on a good day.

David Weitzner Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve been doing actually a lot of workshops, a lot of workshops, mostly with higher level folks. But I think the most difficult piece in this is if you accept the notion that meaning, connection and wonder are important, there’s a challenge on where the power of decision making should lay. So what can I do these workshops with senior folks? The biggest question I get is, Oh, so does I mean, you know, the junior person has as much power as me? The CEO has worked for decades, right? And the answer is obviously no. But I say it like that. I say the locus of power remains the same, but the nexus is shifting. In other words, all those folks who support your power are becoming more powerful. So the decision can lie with you. Absolutely. But do you have to listen in a way that maybe you didn’t do 20 years ago also? Absolutely. And figuring that out, figuring out that sweet spot where you don’t give up on hierarchical structures by your empowering everyone in the organization to be themselves to engage in wonder, to come to the table almost as equals is really, really challenging. You know, the easy way to put it that I always like to say is we have to move from leadership being a noun to a verb, right? In the old days, I was, I’m the leader that on matters now it’s I’m leading, right? And that act of leading requires a different type of buy-in and a different type of skillset. So I really think the hard work here is creating the cultural fit that allows the decision makers with the traditional power to still be the decision makers while creating a space for others in the hierarchy and not going into chaos,

Peter Winick Which is how much of this is. The there’s a convergence here of sort of the ethos of connected capitalism, as well as living in a time where the not empowered be that a consumer or B that a newly minted front-line manager, you know, that wouldn’t dream of busting into the CEO’s office and say, Let me tell you what I think, boss, right? Right, right? Because of social and because of all these other things, there’s a transparency in the marketplace, and many organizations have been forced to listen louder than they would have liked in the past. And you might be a quote, powerless consumer that got, you know, a bad product, whatever that is, but you’ve got 100000 followers. This and the other thing, and you can cause a ruckus on your local Facebook page, right?

David Weitzner That’s right, right? That’s right. You know, it’s something we write a lot about on the academic side. My coauthor and I, which is that power less ness is actually an asset. And you know, when we say someone’s power less traditionally power less means you have no power. Today, the power less are actually very salient to folks with a lot of power. And understanding that dynamic, you know, it’s really interesting because on the one hand, there’s a progressive movement that has made power a dirty word. Sure. On the other hand, it’s really a misnomer because power is still in play. Just it comes from places that you don’t necessarily expect anymore. Right? And that’s where a lot of companies are making mistakes because they’re responding to their CSR initiatives, for example, where they think, Well, if I throw money at the social issue of the day, then I’m doing the right thing. And that’s not good long term, because that’s not where your firm’s skillset art. That’s not where the best allocation of your resources, right?

Peter Winick Well, oftentimes a good deed is perceived as nothing more than what it often is, which is placating Oh, let’s put a little, you know, pink ribbon or, you know, give it a few dollars to this and then I’ll shut up that group or that’ll placate them or make them feel like, you know, we’re really behind, right? But that’s that goes back to your point on culture.

David Weitzner That’s right. That’s right. And also, by the way, I think that’s what Friedman was critical of, right? When is when you read Friedman closely? What he was saying is, well, if it’s about placating the loudest voices, then it’s really just a whim of the CEO to spend your money on the issue that’s got his attention or her attention to it, right? And that’s not particularly interesting. But if we think about it more broadly and we say, Well, how is it that what we do as a firm can actually help these individuals? How can we deploy our resources that it becomes more interesting? You know, also like in Canada, we have CIBC. You know, I mean, they’re in the states, too. But CIBC is known for the run for the cure, right? Which is which is this big race that they do. What how is their competency tied to running races? It’s not right. You’re a bank and you want to make a difference. Use your resources. Figure out how to do banking in a way. That makes these different communities more satisfied, rather than hosting big deal events that aren’t really tied to your core competencies or to your expertise. And that’s part of the connective capitalism message, right? Which is once the meaning that you find when you go to work. Why do you go to work as a banker? Who are you connecting with? Where is your sense of wonder? Where does that come to you? And that forces you to think more deeply about what you do in the day to day. And it’s not as easy to just write a check and assuage a conscious or the demands of your stakeholders were putting pressure on you.

Peter Winick So as we start to wrap up your debut, the last sort of thoughts or things I’d love for you to share with us is so the book comes out pandemic all this other stuff going on. How has that been good, bad or indifferent for you? As an author struggling to get like every author is getting a better job, getting the attention of folks that are attention start, you know, like you’re competing with Netflix and everything else, but anything. It’s been different from this book as opposed to.

David Weitzner I found what’s really interesting is there’s more of a hunger for it, framed as a How do I rebuild post-pandemic? I think what’s very interesting is people aren’t asking those small incremental questions anymore, right? Used to be when you go out as a consultant are trying to make an existing business model slightly better. Right now, folks are like, I don’t know that I’m going back to work. I don’t know that I’m opening the office again. I don’t know what our product is, right? And when they start to think about rebuilding their business after the pandemic, they’re asking the big picture questions that connected capitalism addresses. So sadly, in a way, I think the timing has actually been very fortuitous. And the questions and the engagement we’re getting from, you know, business leaders has been really interesting and heartening that we’re at a moment in history, maybe where we can come out better and stronger as a result of this. At the same time, at the same time, for a lot of folks, including myself, the pandemic has really made us question the competence of government and other major decision makers, Right? Went and almost reminded us of how important business is because if we can’t trust government and public institutions to get us through the crisis, then we do start looking towards the innovations in the private sector. And that’s why we need to make sure that we’re doing it right

Peter Winick when ultimately is here in the states and we’re many things have gone well, is that that place where private enterprise and government interface right the technology? It wasn’t just the money thrown at it, but we’ve got, you know, Pfizer doing all these amazing companies doing amazing things. And I think when the history books are written, it’s like, wow, they were able to figure that out so quickly. Like, That’s pretty cool. Then you have to write your point logistics supply chain that like, there’s a thousand other things that went wrong, both here in the states and up in Canada.

David Weitzner But history of the pandemic has killed in my mind just in time. I think redundancy is going to be the message of the day moving forward. You know that we can’t rely on global supply chains and we can’t rely on that sort of efficiency arguments that we took for granted for decades. And that’s a huge, huge shift. The other point that I think is important, though, is the government. We’re a partner, but government also chose the winners and the losers. So coming back to where we started this conversation, the artistic industries have been devastated, devastated because government hasn’t prioritized and hasn’t prioritized. In fact, that Broadway is barely reopening now, right, is very problematic, you know? And so thinking about the power to choose winners and losers and making sure that they’re the winners and losers we as a society want and not necessarily arbitrary ones decided by government policy at a specific point of time and a crisis is also, I think, porn.

Peter Winick Yeah, a great point. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us today, and best of luck with everything.

David Weitzner Thank you. Awesome.

Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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