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A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You Hardcover – April 7, 2014
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From the Publisher
Q&A with Christoph Lueneburger, author of A Culture of Purpose
What is a culture of purpose?
Culture, at its core, is the set of beliefs and customs—the kinds of thinking and behaving—that characterize a group of people. Organizations have cultures also, and purpose introduces a shared vision with impact beyond the organization itself. A culture of purpose inspires a meaningful number of people to do the “right” things in pursuit of a bold, inspirational ideal (rather than committing them to do things right in service of self-centered metrics, like profitable growth or shareholder value). Cultures of purpose are not theoretical constructs: you’ll know them by the passion and intent of their people, the trust among them, and their intolerance of cynicism.
A number of books have been written on sustainability. How is yours different? You use the phrase “sustainable business” often? What do you mean by the term? Why are cultures of purpose built with sustainability in mind? Can any organization build a culture of purpose?
I did not set out to write a book on sustainability, but rather one that describes successful, lasting organizational cultures that have toppled business-as-usual. Because sustainability is so vital to such organizations and the people who shape them, it’s fair to ask how this book is different. Lots of books have been written about sustainability, some very good. These books are largely about the “why” and the “how” of sustainability. But the “how” can be fleeting in the sense that yesterday’s best practice quickly becomes today’s common practice. A Culture of Purpose pursues a different route by focusing on the “who” and the “where”—it offers an actionable description of the kinds of people who build lasting organizations and the kinds of places that attract them. Once you bring such people into a culture that embraces them, in my experience, the “how” will take care of itself. A sustainable business is one that both continuously asks itself what it will take to stay true to its purpose and is prepared to act on whatever the answer implies, even if difficult or uncomfortable. Although that’s usually simple, it is rarely easy because this kind of business surrenders a good bit of its hierarchy. Its leaders push far more autonomy to the frontier—the warehouses and check-out counters— and have learned to be comfortable with the notion of distributed experimentation and failure as the price of nimbleness and innovation. This autonomy is justified because the best and most passionate people are as much attracted by the purpose of the organization as they are aligned by it. Wherever that balance works, the business is very likely to last. Cultures of purpose can be built in different ways. Sustainability is one of those ways; it just happens to be the most consistently effective one. That’s because being sustainable as a business, at its core, not only requires thinking both long-term and integratively but also reveals organizational values, or perhaps more accurately the value placed on things other than the next quarterly profits. It is those values that attract passionate people, and it is those people who substantiate and further shape the culture. Yes, so long as it is prepared to ask difficult questions and pursue the change implicit in answering them. For some organizations, to be fair, doing so will lead to the conclusion that they need to fundamentally change the business they are in. But once you get a critical mass of the right kinds of people, the momentum is on your side because they will ask the difficult questions. And they will claim their right to take action. If you, as a leader, can get comfortable bringing on and empowering such people, you have the ingredients for a culture of purpose.
“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
From the Inside Flap
Building a culture of purpose is one of the greatest challenges facing modern leaders. 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, 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 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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1) It will show you that your organization, if it is to be successful in the long run, must create a culture that offers more than just “a job” to its people. In fact, it must offer a sense of meaning and purpose that will attract and help retain top talent, which in turn will underpin and sustain your success. The fact that your culture must have a clearly stated and compelling purpose is a simple and widely known insight - yet it is rarely acted upon and implemented by leaders.
2) This book will give you a thorough and readily applicable framework as to how to create such cultures. It focuses on sustainability as its main theme, but the framework is applicable to any organization that takes building a mission-driven culture seriously. It will show you what traits, competencies and cultural components are necessary to build highly successful organizations, what to look for when you hire people to build such organizations, and what pitfalls you need to be aware of. It is rare that a book builds on the latest research results in the field, is deeply anchored in current successful business practices, and offers a hands-on, readily implementable framework to leaders that they can apply to their jobs the next day, all at the same time.
3) This book will make you think about what is important to you as a current (or future) leader and how that relates to the culture you have or about to build. It will make you ask questions that most of us have asked but few of us have truly answered – what is it that drives YOU personally, and how your personal set of values, traits and characteristics impact the organization you lead.
4) Last, but not least – Mr. Lueneburger manages to pull off a difficult act: his book is deeply thoughtful, addictively engaging, and highly entertaining at the same time.
Peter Matrai, COO&CFO of Butamax Advanced Biofuels
Should you wish to do business beyond 2014, A Culture of Purpose is essential.
Shatter Buggy, Inc.