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How To Redefine The Role Of Business In Society

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There’s a new conversation going on at American companies. From the boardroom to the company cafeteria, people are talking about doing a better job of addressing the world’s social problems. They want to do more than make money. They want be a force of good. Dan Glaser is very familiar with the issues and nuances behind those conversations. As the CEO of Marsh and McLennan, a giant global consulting firm, he advises the men and women leading Fortune 500 companies on the importance of what’s known as “leading with purpose.” Why is this going on now? Glaser said, “Employees have changed. They’re much more active. They’re more interested in a company that has values.” And so, he adds, “Companies have to literally think ‘what is our reason for existing?’ Like ‘why do we exist?’” As business leaders answer that question, they are redefining the role of business in society and reassessing the notion that the primary purpose of a company is to deliver profits for its shareholders. Glaser says this new approach is changing corporate culture, leadership styles, and even the role of CEO. “A CEO today literally should recognize themselves as a servant of their company,” said Glaser. “And CEOs who operate that way, with humility, recognize that it’s not about them. It’s about the people who work for the organization, it’s about the clients, and it’s about the community.” Then, with added emphasis, he said, “And you do that right, shareholders will be fine.”

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