October 13

Mission-driven CEOs: key lessons from world-class leaders

In Season 9 of the Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast, which we entitled “Mission-driven CEOs”, I interviewed a variety of impressive Chief Executives about their sense of mission:

  • What’s the impact they want to make beyond just the financials — in terms of the company mission and their personal leadership legacy?
  • How do they put that into practice on a daily basis?

I wanted to find out how they reconciled the financial pressures of business with their deeper sense of purpose and the ultimate legacy they wanted to create.

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S9E01: Mission-Driven CEOs
S9E02: Creating a ‘no glass ceiling’ culture, with Ben Dorks (CEO, Ideagen)
S9E03: Creating an employee-owned business, with Graeme Strachan (CEO, ViTL Solutions)
S9E04: 250X growth, and making the Internet a better place, with Ben Crawford (CEO, CentralNic)
S9E05: Building, scaling and decentralising… all the way to full employee ownership, with Thomas de Cad’oro Granier (CEO, Equal Experts)
S9E06: Pursuing frictionless, distributed finance, with Nigel Verdon (CEO, Railsbank)
S9E07: Aligning a diversified group of businesses, with Richard Rankin (CEO, H&H Group)
S9E08: Practicing leadership as a craft, with Joshua Lachs (CEO, Moneythink)
S9E09: 35 years as CEO … and the next chapter, with Adrian Weiler (Chair, Smart Freight Centre)
S9E10: A 40-year mission, with Frank Millar (CEO, CPI)

Here are some important lessons that emerged from those interviews, along with a question to reflect on for each. I highly recommend you listen in to the full podcast episodes, as you’ll get a real glimpse into the inside story of these experienced mission-driven leaders:

1 - Make a big difference in specific localities instead of a tiny difference everywhere. Ben Dorks is CEO of Ideagen Plc, an AIM-listed leader in risk management software. He’s passionate about the specific localities where the company is based, and has rolled out initiatives to serve these local areas and give back. How is your business making a difference in its locality?

2 - Burn your bridges to bring out the best in you. Graeme Strachan (CEO, ViTL Solutions) became an accidental business owner. He found that the best way to move forward in his desired direction was to ‘burn his bridges’ and make certain strategic decisions that weren’t reversible. Where are you all-in?

3 - Bet on your mission. Ben Crawford (CEO of CentralNic, a leading domain name and Internet services business) invested $10 million back into internal processes and systems, rather than buying more companies — an investment he now credits with over $100M of value, helping him take a 12-person business and grew its revenues 250X in just over a decade, turning it into a $500M turnover corporation with some 700 employees. What’s the investment you need to make right now, to further your mission?

4 - Tap into your deepest desires. Thomas de Cad'oro Granier (CEO of Equal Experts, a platform that engages 3,000 consultants across five continents). His deep personal desire for freedom has led him to develop specific processes to enable decentralised and empowered decision-making at scale, all the way to adopting a full employee-ownership model. What are your core convictions and how are you building those into how your business works?

5 - Boil your vision down into simple, short-term objectives. Nigel Verdon (CEO, Railsbank, a leading embedded finance experience platform) is on a mission to decentralise and democratise the finance industry, and he spends considerable time in making sure everyone is clear on goals and avoiding ‘shiny new objects’ and exciting but distracting initiatives. Do your people know how to make your vision come to life this quarter?

6 - Articulate your leadership values. Richard Rankin (CEO of H&H Group, a diversified group delivering services mainly to rural communities) discovered that his leadership style was so different from his predecessor, that it wasn’t understood. He learned that action wasn’t enough — and he needed to articulate what he stood for, and educate the broader organisation. What do you stand for, and do your people truly know it?

7 - Understand what vulnerability really means — and lean into it. Joshua Lachs is CEO of Moneythink, a not-for-profit organisation on a mission to help students understand their financial options. As part of his own leadership journey he discovered what vulnerability was, what it wasn’t, how important it was for true leadership, and how to wield it with impact. Are you drawing on vulnerability as a leadership super-skill?

8 - Obsess about your customers to fulfil your mission. Adrian Weiler was CEO for over 35 years at Inform, an international software business focused on AI-based decision-making. He took it from a small stagnant business to huge growth and a blue-chip client base, with a simple strategy of building a supportive culture with a focus on delighting customers. Where is your next opportunity to go above-and-beyond for your stakeholders?

9- Have a 40-year mission that lights a fire under you. Frank Millar is Chief Exec of CPI, a technology innovation centre in the UK. His business has joined forces with others to drive a 40-year nationwide innovation agenda, and it’s the reason he gets out of bed every day. What’s the mission you’re on that will outlive your own career?

Which insight from these mission-driven CEOs is the most important for you right now?

(By the way, if you know a mission-driven CEO who would be a great guest for a future episode, I’d love an introduction. Please get in touch.)


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