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Does having a purpose add to shareholder value?

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What is the Power of Purpose for an organisation, its stakeholders and wider society?

A powerful combination of CEOs and HR Directors from successful global organisations and world-renowned leadership scholars were convened by the Executive Education team at the Møller Centre (Friday 21 April). The purpose? To examine and debate the Power of Purpose in a business context and its impact on stakeholder and shareholder value.

Over 50 senior leaders, HR Directors and Leadership Scholars from organisations including DLA Piper, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Lidl UK, Marshall Group, Trustonic, Taylor Vinters, Friends of the Earth, Scandinavian Airlines, the Babraham Institute, The University of Cambridge, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Lancaster and many others explored the question, ‘does purpose drive stakeholder and shareholder value?’. This took place at the annual Møller Executive Education Practical Leadership Symposium designed and delivered in partnership with the International Leadership Association (ILA).

Gillian Secrett, CEO of the Møller Centre explained, “this leadership event was a powerful session with some important takeaways and I would like to thank all those who invested their time to share compelling stories demonstrating that organisations with a significant company purpose can create demonstrable advantage for stakeholders including employees, customers, investors, and ultimately our planet.”

The full output report from the day will be published in the summer and presented at the International Leadership Association’s 19th annual global conference, “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” to be held in Brussels 12-15 October 2017. Complete details are available at www.ila-net.org/conferences.

The symposium was framed by positioning keynotes from global CEOs including AstraZeneca’s Menelas Pangalos, Executive Vice-President, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit and DLA Piper’s Simon Levine, Global Co-CEO. The two leaders shared two very different stories of how successful leadership teams had developed and aligned clear strategic goals grounded by values and driven by purpose, which when communicated effectively to all stakeholders had transformed two global businesses.

Internationally renowned leadership scholars flew in to Cambridge from the US, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, and Scotland to share their research findings on purpose-driven organisations. US-based Møller Leadership Scholar, Professor Georgia Sorenson, co-founder of the International Leadership Association was joined by Professor Gill Hickman, to explain the construct of their book on “The Power of Invisible Leadership” and how people align with organisations that have a compelling and deeply held common purpose which inspires them to deliver their best work. Finally, Leadership scholars Steve Kempster and Brad Jackson, past board members of the International Leadership Association, explored leadership as purpose and its role in leadership practice and discussed the implications of singularly focusing upon corporate purpose to the exclusion of societal purpose against the backdrop of the complex, competitive and unpredictable world we now live in.

The CEOs, HRDs and leadership scholars worked in facilitated discovery workshops to share valuable experiences and initiatives which they had found to create momentum and engagement and address what purpose meant to them individually and to their organisations. They also explored how purpose can generate value for key stakeholders.

Cynthia Cherrey, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association explained, “The synergy that occurred by bringing together leadership scholars and CEOs working at the nexus of theory and practice generated a rich and productive series of conversations and next steps pertaining to this important topic of purpose.”

Simon Levine, Global Co-CEO at DLA Piper, said: “As the CEO of one of the world’s largest law firms you rarely get the time to stop and think about purpose in its broadest sense. The Møller Leadership Symposium enabled me to do just that, as well as benefit from the invaluable insight shared by fellow CEOs from different industry sectors and preeminent leadership scholars.”

The output of the Symposium will form the basis for a discussion panel session on The Business Case for Purpose at the International Leadership Association’s 19th annual global conference, featuring keynote speakers Margaret Heffernan, David Petraeus, Herman Van Rompuy, and Jeroen van der Veer, to be held in Brussels 12-15 October 2017. Copies of the white paper will be available in the summer and available to those who register for the ILA conference at www.ila-net.org/conferences.