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Speed Review: Passion & Purpose

Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders

by John Coleman, Daniel Gulati & W. Oliver Segovia

Speed Review: Passion & Purpose
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A Critical Guide for Any Young Leader

Business, in the hands of today’s young, innovative leaders, is a force for good and the hope of the future, according to the authors of Passion & Purpose. In this book from the Harvard Business Review Press, the authors seek to prove their optimism through the collected first-person essays of more than 25 recently minted Harvard Business School MBAs facing a variety of challenges and opportunities early in their careers. Among the leaders that readers meet are:

  • Chris Maloney, a management consultant specializing in public and private sector projects in Africa. Writing about his experiences in Rwanda, Maloney describes how business can yield not just an economic return, but a "social return" as well — but only once the social context of a project is clearly understood.
  • Andrew Goodman, who spent 18 months in Qatar helping to reform its education system through the introduction of standards of open discussion, critical thinking and civic engagement. "By working with students in a relatively small country, we genuinely had the potential to change the way those young people will think about the world in the future, for better or for worse," Goodman writes.
  • Alexa Leigh Marie Von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest Inc. Von Tobel took a leave of absence from Harvard Business School to launch LearnVest, a financial literacy firm.
  • Valerie Bockstette, a consultant specializing in shared value strategies. Bockstette explains: "Companies that view sustainability as a necessary evil of appeasing loud activists, or as a ‘tick the box’ effort to fill out a perceived necessary reporting framework, or as simply reducing their footprint may be missing out on huge opportunities for value creation."

Six Priorities

The essays are grouped into six core issues, of which sustainability is one. Young, global MBAs themselves, the three authors — American John Coleman, Australian Daniel Gulati and Filipino W. Oliver Segovia — began the project of this book with a survey of more than 500 current and recent students of top business schools. From this survey, as well as their own experiences in school and the workplace, and conversations with friends, professors and colleagues, the authors identified six themes that summarize the priorities and core issues that guide today’s young leaders. These six core issues are:

1. Convergence. The public, private and nonprofit sectors no longer have distinct and separate goals. Social obligation is part of private business, and business models guide public and non-profit organizations.

2. Globalization. Globalization is not about unfair competition, but rather about the opportunity for collaboration, cooperation and learning.

3. People. Diversity is not seen as an impediment or a challenge to be overcome but rather as an opportunity to be embraced.

4. Sustainability. A focus on sustainability leads to more cost-effective and energy-efficient businesses.

5. Technology. Today’s young business leaders are the first generation to come of age in a connected society, and they expect more technology-led changes in the ways organizations do business.

6. Learning. This generation recognizes the importance of education in building future leaders, but is also wary about current learning models, especially in business school.

Living the Passion

Once the core issues had been identified, the authors "crowd-sourced" most of the eventual content of the book by putting out a call to young business leaders for submissions of stories. Looking for the most compelling, inspirational and interesting stories, they whittled down 100 essay submissions to the ones that appear in the book. The selection process ensured that the reader receives the most beneficial information from the best minds. Each of the sections of the book devoted to a theme ends with an interview of a senior leader. The stars of the book, however, are the young leaders whose active "passion and purpose" make a compelling case for the connection between business success and building a better world.

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