Leaders with purpose

The new leaders of purposeful capitalism

Purposeful leaders respond unhesitatingly to their shareholders, but also to their employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the communities in which they operate to the question "why does society need a company like the one you lead". 

The present moment is undoubtedly the beginning of a very complex but also exciting decade, with great opportunities and great challenges for humanity.

A new era marked by the UN Agenda 2030 to achieve sustainable economic growth. An era that obliges us all, as economic agents and as citizens of the world, to make conscious and responsible decisions that not only boost economic profits - which are undoubtedly necessary for the survival of any company - but that are committed to impact as a competitive advantage to improve the results of business activity.

Impact is the clear commitment to make a positive contribution to the quality of life of people and the planet without leaving anyone behind. 

A new era marked by the resurgence of a new capitalismThe purpose is driven by a clearly defined "purpose" in terms of the company's principles and values. The purpose defined by John Elkinton in the 3Ps of the triple bottom line, profit-people-planet is joined by the fourth P driving force: purpose. Purpose, founded on principles and values such as sustainability and the generation of positive social impact, becomes a lever of innovation and growth for the generation of long-term value for all the company's stakeholders.

New era, new leaders

In the midst of a profound and perhaps "invisible" transformation accelerated by the Covid 19 pandemic that is radically changing the way we live, work and relate to each other, this new purposeful, impactful, manageable and measurable capitalism needs new, courageous, conscious and responsible leaders. These leaders, men and women, are those we call leaders with purpose and that society demands more than ever.

The purposeful leaders answer without hesitation to their shareholders, but also to their employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the communities in which they operate to the question "why does society need a company like the one you lead". 

"Step up or get out of the way".

In the face of new challenges such as climate change (which Bill Gates says will have greater consequences than the Covid 19 crisis if we do not manage to be carbon neutral by 2050), our economic system no longer offers viable solutions.

We are living through a health crisis with more than 110 million people infected and more than 2.5 million dead worldwide. An economic crisis that is pushing public debt to unprecedented levels in order to alleviate the massive destruction of thousands of jobs, companies and sectors where massive public aid will not be enough to alleviate the disastrous levels of unemployment and poverty.

The pandemic comes on top of other major humanitarian challenges such as hunger, refugees, access to clean water, loss of wildlife and biodiversity.

"Take a step forward, or get out of the way."was the provocative slogan of Tomorrow's Capitalism Forum, led by John Elkington, a leading thinker and world reference on sustainability, held in the heart of London's financial district last January.

John Elkington says that "we are living in the positive Exponential Decade and business leaders and financial markets will have no choice but to step forward in radically new ways if they want to move their businesses forward".

Making purpose a role model

There is much talk of two purposeful leaders, Paul Polman former CEO of Unilever, and Emmanuel Faber, former CEO of Danone. Both have pioneered the transformation of Unilever and Danone into entities with a strong purpose backed by ethical and socially responsible principles and values that have exponentially grown the bottom line while satisfying the creation of value for its customers, employees and the community in which it operates (the so-called "stakeholders").

But there are also many purposeful leaders in our country, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, the next chairman of the new Caixabank, is a leader for whom purpose is part of his DNA. Educated in Deusto by the Society of Jesus, he speaks of purpose as an "acculturated" term in Europe, since the term social purpose is part of our way of being and working, just as he experienced it at school with his classmates. 

In all his speeches, it is surprising how many times he mentions people as the driving force for success in any company or business project. Goirigolzarri emphasised "the importance of teams feeling a deep sense of pride in belonging to the company in which they work" and spoke of these teams as "our people" - he said this with a naturalness and a closeness worthy of admiration.

In this regard, the words of Antonio Garrigues, another great pioneer and leader with purpose, who defends that values and principles always come first. Garrigues says that the leader's great challenge is to bring the purpose down to earth so that everyone works to achieve that purpose. In short, it is a matter of making purpose an integral behavioural model for all the company's employees and executives.

"Our capitalism is no longer fit for purpose".

"Our capitalism no longer responds to an ideal of true purpose. These are the firm, tough words of the chairman of the Global Steering Group, Sir Ronald Cohen, the purposeful leader who has been most vocal about the need for a new capitalism based on doing good by doing well (doing well by doing good). Ronnie, as he is called by all those who come into contact with him (from his closest friends to the president of the United Kingdom or Bono, the American singer), defends in his book Impact Reshaping Capitalism to drive real change that a new, more humane capitalism is urgently needed.

In this fascinating book he calls on governments, investors, employers, employees, savers, consumers, entrepreneurs... in short, each and every one of us to lead a new capitalism with purpose. To introduce "impact" into our daily decisions, demanding that our governments, financial managers and business leaders act "leaving no one behind". 

Measurable impact in monetary and comparable terms becomes a competitive advantage for those companies that activate it in the core of their businesses, so that the more positive impact they generate in the production of their goods and services, the greater the economic return and the lower the risks assumed by the company. In short, a new capitalism based on optimising the triple return-risk-impact equation to achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth that generates benefits for shareholders and society as a whole.

Governments also have a role to play

For this we will need a good battalion of purposeful, courageous and responsive leaders, trained and prepared to make the new Enterprise 2.0 happen.

Finally, Cohen reminds us of the strategic role of governments in their unique role as regulators of the economy. It is in their hands to prioritise and help those that generate the most positive impact against those that generate the most damage and harm, and to activate, as our European neighbours have done, greater efficiency and cost savings through public policies that "pay for outcomes" and not for "outputs".

A new and exciting capitalism where we all have a role to play, what will be yours? Find out more in the Transcendent blog!

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