Billionaire Dennis Bakke, co-founder and former president/CEO of the AES Corporation, spoke at Belmont this week, detailing the ideas behind his New York Times best-selling book, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. Bakke founded AES in 1981, helping to build the international energy corporation into a multi-billion dollar company with 40,000 employees in 31 countries. Co-sponsored by the Belmont Center for Business Ethics and the Office of Spiritual Development, Bakke led a networking reception and lecture Tuesday night for local business leaders and spoke again at a convocation in Neely on Wednesday.
“Making money is absolutely essential to running a business,” Bakke said. “But it’s not the purpose for the business. It’s not the reason the business exists. Our purpose should be to do something useful for society, to serve.”
Bakke concluded his talk on Wednesday by discussing the qualities necessary to be a great leader: humility and love. “Be the best in the world as a manager but don’t confuse it with leadership. Management is about control while leadership is about freedom, freeing people to make decisions.”
Dr. Harry N. Hollis, the James M. Medlin Chair of Business Ethics, is co-founder and current director of the Center for Business Ethics at Belmont, where he has taught since 1991. Dr. Hollis said, “Dennis Bakke is a business leader who understands that ‘Joy at Work’ depends on people who are ethical in all their relationships. His company was founded on the values of integrity, fairness, fun and social responsibility—which is certainly a winning combination for workplace success.”
In 2003, Bakke and his wife Eileen founded Imagine Schools, an organization that operates independent and nonprofit public charter schools. Imagine Schools now serve more than 20,000 students on 51 campuses in 11 states and the District of Columbia.