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A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You

ISBN: 978-1-118-81456-7
272 pages
April 2014, Jossey-Bass
A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You (1118814568) cover image


How innovative leaders create meaningful cultures that attract and retain top talent

Building a culture of purpose is one of the greatest challenges facing modern leaders, as today's best minds are looking for meaning, not just jobs. More than any other single factor, cultures of purpose power winning organizations, attracting the smartest, most creative, most passionate talent.

For leaders building cultures of purpose, the commercial pursuit of sustainability provides the most reliable blueprint. While sustainability has been commonly misconstrued as a description of a set of problems, Christoph Lueneburger shows that it is really a solution to problems, capable of inspiring people and forging cultures.Sharing his exclusive, in-depth dialogues with chief sustainability officers, CEOs, and board chairmen, Lueneburger reveals how sustainability works at places where it works best, including Chrysler, Unilever, TNT, Walmart, and Bloomberg. Featuring a clear three-phase process that helps leaders assess the talent needed to develop organizations characterized by energy, resilience, and openness, A Culture of Purpose offers leaders the right questions to ask in order to:

  • Tap and Nurture Your Current Corporate Strengths: Learn how to recognize, cultivate, and leverage the competencies of your current talent to develop your leadership team.
  • Hire the Right Team: Ask the right questions to identify the innate personality traits in potential new hires, regardless of level and function, to bring on board those most likely to succeed in and shape your organization.
  • Craft Your Culture: Create an environment that unleashes these competencies and traits and pushes them to the fore. Shape how people relate to one another and collectively go for what would be out of reach to them individually.

Many books have described the "what" and the "how" of sustainability, but this is the first to reveal the "who." Lueneburger changes dated preconceptions to show that sustainability is not an ideological mindset but a cultural trait of a resilient business. For leaders ready to build and strengthen a winning business, A Culture of Purpose is an education, a revelation, and an invitation to the next generation of success.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Daniel Goleman ix

Introduction 1

PART 1 Placing Leaders with a Purpose at the Core 11

1 The Boost of Change Leadership 13

2 The Power of Influencing 30

3 The Impact of Results Delivery 46

4 The Payoff of Commercial Drive 64

5 The Scale of Strategic Orientation 81

PART 2 Hiring Talent with a Purpose at the Frontier 97

6 Spreading Faster with Engagement 99

7 Reaching Farther with Determination 118

8 Going Deeper with Insight 135

9 Staying Hungry with Curiosity 151

PART 3 Building a Culture of Purpose 165

10 Energy 167

11 Resilience 184

12 Openness 200

PART 4 Taking Action 215

13 The Sequence of Building a Culture of Purpose 217

Epilogue 233

Notes 237

Acknowledgments 244

About the Author 247

Index 249

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Author Information

CHRISTOPH LUENEBURGER is a partner at Egon Zehnder, where he founded the firm’s sustainability practice in 2008 and now heads its global private equity practice. His writing on sustainability and leadership has been featured in People & Strategy, Harvard Business Review, and MIT’s Sloan Management Review, and he is a fellow of the Aspen Institute. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

For more information, please visit www.egonzehnder.com and www.cultureofpurpose.com.

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“I loved this easy-to-read and inspiring book. Two thumbs up.”
—Scott Goodson, The Huffington Post

“A Culture of Purpose will not only help you achieve success, it will help you sustain success by building organizations motivated by long-term meaning.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, author, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

“Successful companies see sustainability not as a noun, but as an adjective that applies to everything they do: sustainable operations, sustainable solutions, sustainable opportunities, sustainable profits. In A Culture of Purpose, Christoph Lueneburger provides compelling examples of how this comprehensive approach can give an organization a sense of deeper meaning, as it does at Dow.”
—Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO, The Dow Chemical Company

“Christoph Lueneburger breaks new ground with a fascinating analysis of the leadership attributes and organizational characteristics that will distinguish successful companies in the twenty-first century. A Culture of Purpose should be read by anyone seeking to break out of the constraints of traditional approaches.”
—Steve Miller, chairman, AIG

“The challenge of climate change demands leaders who are comfortable making decisions under uncertainty, and focused on the long term while driving for more immediate results. In A Culture of Purpose, Christoph Lueneburger shares powerful stories of some of the leaders on this journey and the cultures they are building.”
—Rachel Kyte, group vice president, Climate Change Group, The World Bank

“If you’re like me, you learn best from stories, and A Culture of Purpose bursts with stories of leaders whose commitment to sustainability took their organizations to a stronger, purpose-driven future. Christoph Lueneburger parses the core elements of success that guided these leaders, offering an actionable roadmap for building a culture of purpose.”
—Rick Ridgeway, vice president, environmental affairs, Patagonia

“Sustainability is not an intellectual luxury; it’s fundamental to achieving business goals at Lands’ End. In A Culture of Purpose, Christoph Lueneburger shares the actionable and wise counsel that we have relied on to inspire our employees and strengthen our company.”
—Edgar Huber, CEO, Lands’ End

“As sustainability matures from corporate social responsibility to a strategic imperative, embedding it in corporate culture can elude even savvy executives. Through thoughtful analysis of how leaders successfully transformed organizations across industries, compelling stories, and practical advice, Christoph Lueneburger brilliantly inspires with an actionable business case for a purpose-driven culture.”
—Roxanne Decyk, board director, Petrofac and Snap-On, and former EVP, government relations, Shell

“In A Culture of Purpose, Christoph Lueneburger provides an effective framework for building a culture that will drive transformative, sustainable change in an organization. A Culture of Purpose provides compelling stories and valuable insights about identifying the right people and motivating them with a passion-driven narrative to create cultures of purpose: not just what to do, but how to do it. If you want to understand companies and institutions for which the means and the ends are equally purposeful, and to emulate the leaders who sustain those organizations, this book is for you.”
—Ann Sarnoff, chief operating officer, BBC Americas

“Visionary, practical, excellent. Christoph Lueneburger offers established and aspiring leaders new insights and better ways for creating and then advancing the kind of culture required to solve the world’s biggest problems. From my experience as a leader across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, I know that the common imperative for all leaders is building that culture. There is no shortcut to this result, but A Culture of Purpose provides a roadmap.”
—Lois Quam, chief operating officer, The Nature Conservancy

“At the heart of Christoph Lueneburger’s book is the understanding that sustainability is not just a commercial necessity and increasingly the driver of profit, but a magnet for talent. If you want to build a passionate organization with impact and meaning, A Culture Of Purpose will triumphantly and practically lead the way.”
—Lord Deben, former UK Secretary of State for the Environment and chairman, Valpak

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Press Release

April 11, 2014
A Culture of Purpose Features Strategies from the World's Top CEOs and Sustainability Leaders

What do Bloomberg, Chrysler and Owens Corning have in common with Unilever, PUMA and Seventh Generation? They are all paving new paths with sustainability by betting on the talent and culture of their organizations.

In his new book, A CULTURE OF PURPOSE (Jossey-Bass, 978-1-118-81456-7, April 2014), Christoph Lueneburger, founder of the Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder, demonstrates that choosing the right people is as important as knowing how to make them choose your organization.  Forward-thinking, sustainable companies will need smart, creative, and passionate leaders who cultivate and thrive in a “culture of purpose.”

"Being sustainable is a statement about the DNA of your organization rather than about trees or solar power. Sustainability is not a description of a set of problems. It's a solution to them.  It forges cultures, it inspires. The very best people don’t want window-dressing policies about composting and charitable giving. They do want to see the meaning in their work all around them, from the C-suite to the break room,” says Lueneburger.

Egon Zehnder, the leading global privately owned executive search and talent management consultancy, has partnered with clients on over six hundred sustainability assignments globally. Having conducted more than thirty-two thousand in-depth management appraisals, from line managers to CEOs, the firm has comprehensive insight into what cultures of purpose have in common.

The book deconstructs cultures of purpose into three sets of building blocks:

Competencies:  quantifiable characteristics of a person that differentiate performance in a specific role. Competencies predict who is good at a particular job. A culture of purpose values change leadership, influencing, results delivery, commercial drive, and strategic orientation.

Traits: innate personality attributes that describe the ability of a person to grow and handle responsibilities of greater scale and scope. Traits predict who is likely to develop and succeed in the future. Cultures of purpose require engagement, determination, insight, and curiosity.

Cultural attributes: behaviors of the collective whole that shape how people relate to one another and strive for what would be out of reach to them individually. The cultural attributes at the core of a culture of purpose are energy, resilience, and openess.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

“What strikes me most is the passion and intent of those in cultures of purpose, the trust among them, and the conspicuous absence of cynicism,” says Lueneburger. “Ours is a time to be confident.”

A CULTURE OF PURPOSE features a range of insights and strategies from CEOs, C-suite sustainability leaders, and board chairmen. Highlights include success stories from: Frank O'Brien-Bernini, Chief Sustainability Officer of Owens Corning; John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation; Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of PUMA; and Bob Kidder, chairman of Chrysler. 

For leaders ready to build and strengthen a winning business, A CULTURE OF PURPOSE is an education, a revelation, and an invitation to the next generation of success.  See www.cultureofpurpose.com for additional information.

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