Purpose & Progress
Human ResourcesDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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August 10, 2020
Human ResourcesDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
Purpose-driven leaders tend to leverage multi-level systems thinking where they account for the larger business, societal and environmental systems around them.

AESC’s Executive Talent Magazine published the article, “Purpose & Progress,” which quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Chief Human Capita​l Officer Eren Rosenfeld on the importance of purpose and collaboration in an organization. The article is excerpted below.​ 


In the second quarter of 2020, we have seen a global pandemic, historic rise in unemployment, and protests that began in the US have spread around the world.​ It is an understatement to call this a time of uncertainty! Is this any time to be talking about purpose? Purpose may be a luxury we cannot afford during a global crisis. Or it may be exactly what we need.


Stockholder to Stakeholder 

The Business Roundtable startled many in August 2019 when it redefined the purpose of the corporation, moving away from shareholder primacy an​d toward promoting an economy that serves all stakeholders. Is this aspirational vision truly the future of corporations? For Eren Rosenfeld, Chief Human Capital Officer at Russell Reynolds and former Global Head of Talent Development at BlackRock, “I think the answer is yes. We’r​​e seeing more and more companies turning toward this vision of sustainability. But there is a ‘rhetoric-reality’ gap. Over 90 percent of CEOs think their future success will be defined in some measure by how sustainable they are, but less than half are actually acting on it. Our new research with the UN Global Compact lays out exactly what it means to be a sustainable leader – what their key qualities are and how businesses can embed sustainability into their DNA.” 




From Command & Control to Purpose-driven Leadership ​ 

Purpose-driven leaders, according to​ Rosenfeld, have a unique leadership profile that differentiates them from other CEOs. “One quality we’ve found is important is this idea of multi-level systems thinking. It’s about an ecosystem orientation that accounts for the larger business, societal and ​environmental sys​​tems around them—and includes a wide range of stakeholders in decision making,” she says. “They also use a long-term horizon, so they're thinking about long-term value creation. It's not the quarter-to-quarter mindset, which is probably what we saw in the past. When others think of profitable growth, they're the kind of people who are thinking about their legacy. They're thinking about brand and reputation, and that means they're either creating a new market or they're using disruptive innovation to revolutionize an existing one. They tend to be practical and develop laser-like focus to separate the signal from the noise.”​ 

In addition, Rosenfeld says, “​​Purpose-driven leaders are also very inclusive. Think about where innovation comes from. It’s a diverse and inclusive culture where people feel safe, where they can share.” 




Competition to Collaboration 

Purpose and a collaborative culture speak to the sustainability of leaders in an organization, according to Rosenfeld. “The people on my team all have strengths that are complementary, and we all know the roles we're playing. And when we align around purpose, we move from being a marching band to a jazz quartet—where we’re comfortable flexing our creative muscles and making innovative decisions. Whe​​n I think about what it means for an organization to lead with purpose, it's about alignment, empowerment, and then retooling our managers and leaders to have that long-term mindset, make decisions based on the multi-level ecosystem and incorporating all stakeholders, and disruptive innovation.” 


Many companies aspire to be more collaborative. According to AESC research, “clients globally rank ‘collaboration’ as the top ingredient they wish they coul​d change in their organizations.” Rosenfeld says, "I have no interest in playing poker, and I don't want a team playing poker.” Because collaborative teams don’t hide their cards from each other. 


To read the full article, click here.​​​