Egon Zehnder
Select region
Close filter

"Life Belongs to the Living"

The Purpose-Builders

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for change.” Or, to translate these words written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his novel Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years for the current age: Change is the price we pay for living and doing business. But change has not always been as significant and fundamental as what we are experiencing today. The world is busily reinventing itself. Digital technologies are accelerating the pace of change. The path forward is not always clear.

In most cases, classic change-management tools are no longer effective. By the time concepts and programs leave the drawing board, the wind has shifted direction yet again. To spark and feed the flames of far-reaching transformation, it takes people who embody change. Their ideas and actions provide answers to important questions: Why does the organization exist? How can we live our vision of a better future? They seize the initiative within the team. They are not afraid to leave questions unanswered. They create purpose and embody it fully. People like this can be found in almost every organization. With their mindsets and specific skill-sets, they are worth their weight in gold.

Purpose-builders don’t merely go for an efficient and effective approach. They value their company as it is today. But at the same time, they are eager to explore its undiscovered potential. So they can serve as a catalyst for the organization. Driven by their positive vision, the projects entrusted to them can shake the very foundations of the enterprise. Overturn hidden agendas. Sweep aside deficiencies and dysfunctionalities.

True transformation can only succeed when management is firmly committed to identifying these purpose-builders and giving them the right ball to run with. They can be found at all levels of the hierarchy. Make no mistake: tomorrow’s success will not be based on the status quo that makes the company successful today. Transformation must be actively promoted top-down. And grow from the inside out.

There is no question that, now more than ever, people are looking not only to lead, but also to add purpose. Organizations that reject such aspirations will also find themselves sidelined in terms of talent management. Creating and maintaining a purposeful culture takes time and effort. The best chance for success? Give genuine high potentials room to drive change. They are the only ones who can bring about change in the sense that Goethe intended. We should strive to build a culture that is capable of reinventing itself – starting at the heart of the organization and working outward.

Topics Related to this Article

Related content

Tech Leaders Surfing the Crisis to Enable Accelerated Innovation

Tech Leaders Surfing the Crisis to Enable Accelerated Innovation


Egon Zehnder’s Istanbul office gathered senior Turkish technology leaders to share their experiences with these new digital ways of working. Read more

An Ego Represents a Risk

An Ego Represents a Risk

Leadership Solutions

In an exclusive interview with the Swiss Handelszeitung, Egon Zehnder Chairwoman Jill Ader explains why the ability to self-reflection is one of the most… Read more

The Great Digital Opportunity: Technology Officers in the Age of COVID-19

The Great Digital Opportunity: Technology Officers in the Age of COVID-19

Technology Officers

As businesses rapidly embraced technology to enable remote work and preserve business continuity, technology officers see a new task for the weeks and months… Read more

Changing language

Close icon

You are switching to an alternate language version of the Egon Zehnder website. The page you are currently on does not have a translated version. If you continue, you will be taken to the alternate language home page.

Continue to the website

Back to top