Purpose: the foundation for leadership in a disrupted world #WFGM17



By Karin Lutz

Partner and Global Leader, EY Beacon Institute and Women.Fast forward


This week, public and private sector leaders from around the world will gather in Paris in hopes of addressing two deeply challenging questions: how do we understand and navigate the increasingly disrupted world in which we live, work, and do business? And how can we effectively engage and lead for impact in this unsteady and uncertain era?


The Women’s Forum Global Meeting at which we’ll seek to answer these questions is centered around four key agenda items, which range from embracing our common humanity and trying to harness technology to make it work for us, to inspiring creativity among employees and shaping a more inclusive future of work.


What unites each of these agenda items? I’m looking forward to hearing others’ thoughts and insights, but I’d say the foundation for effective leadership in our disrupted world is purpose. It’s about instilling a sense of meaningful purpose in our people and using that purpose as a guide to the strategies we pursue and the actions that we take.

"Think about it: when it comes to harnessing the power of technology and channelling individual creativity at work, what’s a better motivator than a truly-held belief that the work we do matters? And what’s more human than finding a sense of meaning in the work we do, day-in and day-out? Employees are increasingly looking for a sense of purpose – and so are their bosses."


Don’t take my word for it. Earlier this year, EY Beacon Institute surveyed nearly 1,500 CEOs and business leaders from around the world. We asked them whether their companies have a sense of purpose, what this means to them, and what value it provides in our volatile world.


The results were clear. More than 70 percent of respondents believed that integrating a sense of purpose in their business helps them navigate this era of disruption. Two-thirds of the business leaders are rethinking what purpose means to them and their firms today. And of those two-thirds, more than half are adopting a purpose that goes beyond just short-term shareholder returns toward a more socially engaged conception that creates value for a broad set of stakeholders. In other words, they’re trying to build a purpose that serves and takes root in our common humanity.


While both women and men believe that a sense of purpose is necessary to navigate the challenges of the twenty-first century, our survey found that women are even more likely than men to take to heart the value of a well-integrated purpose. That makes this week’s Women’s Forum all the more timely and important.


It’s the firms who are putting human-centric purpose first – what we at EY call a ‘Capital P’ Purpose – that are set to thrive in this era of disruption and uncertainty. Today, daring to lead means daring to look beyond the bottom line towards the human beings on which it depends. That’s the message I’ll be bringing to #WFGM17. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and encourage you to engage with us on LinkedIn or @EY_Beacon.

Karin Lutz


If you like this article, please share it using this hashtag #WFGM17.

This article is part of the Women Forum’s ‘Daring to lead’ series, highlighting voices from the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society Global Meeting, in Paris, on 5-6 October. You can see our full programme and current list of speakers for the event at the Women’s Forum website.

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.