Reflections on Purpose: 5 Ideas That Inspire Me and The People Who Make Them Real

Doug on a hike in the Lake District of England (8/5/16).

Doug on a hike in the Lake District of England (8/5/16).

There is always a little more down time to think and reflect in the summer. Whether you are away on vacation, or just finding a few more quiet moments in your summer calendar, you can use that time to look for inspiration for the busy Fall ahead.

I’ve gone back through my writing to revisit the ideas and people that most inspired me in my work during the past year. I hope you will use these ideas as a jumping-off point for your own reflections on ideas that inspire you and the people who make the ideas real.    

  • “The days of saying, ‘The responsibility of business is only to our customers,’ are over.  The foundations of American capitalism rest on a vision of a strong community based on vibrant and connected opportunities.”
    – From Brexit And Trump: A Wake-Up Call For American Capitalism

Doug Conant, the retired CEO of Campbell Soup and now the head of Conant Leadership, has been an inspiration on the power of winning in the workplace to win in the marketplace.  Great talent today knows the power of connecting multiple opportunities to employees, suppliers, and the larger community.  

  • “Every day, leaders must think about their stakeholders and find ways to demonstrate personal care and support of them.  A leader with this mindset demonstrates humility.  You take the time to show you care.” 
    – From Four Critical Habits That Build Trust

I observed this habit being demonstrated by Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna.  Their stock, as a result, has been on a rocket ship.  I also saw it carried out by Robert Grossman, the CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center, now ranked number 1 three years in a row for Patient Safety.  What an amazing journey for both Mark and Bob – the satisfaction of inspiring people to give their best and expecting great results.  Thanks to both of you!  

Philanthropy by giving dollars is great.  Philanthropy that is connected to an overall purpose, linked to strategy, and engages each and every employee is truly amazing.  I have seen this lived out by Golden State Foods under the leadership of Mark Wetterau and also by Pacific Dental Services, under the leadership of Steve Thorne.  Thanks to both of you for your unending commitment to making a difference.  

Dick Gochnauer, the retired CEO of Essendant and now serving on multiple boards, has made meaningful work a quest for his life and for the lives of each and every employee he has served.  Larry Webb, the CEO of The New Home Company, has done the same.  Thanks to both of you for your inspiration and ability to take an abstract concept and realize it in flesh and blood.   

This is perhaps the most important quote of all.  It grounds life in work, marriage, family, and friendship.  It is learned over many years of practice.  My thanks to all of my colleagues at The Center for Higher Ambition Leadership for exemplifying this virtue.   Also, to Michael Maccoby and Peter Ochs, who inspired me in my early pursuits of understanding leadership and the purpose of the corporation.  In particular, I want to thank Russ Eissenstat, the Executive Director of the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership, who models the spirit of “serving others” to advance a cause.  Thanks, Russ, for your leadership and dedication to helping change the world.