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on November 2, 2014
I’m the COO of a biofuels company, and found Mr. Lueneburger’s book deeply thoughtful, entertaining, thought-provoking and instantly useful. If you are a current or aspiring business leader, you should read this book for the following reasons:

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.

Happy reading!

Peter Matrai, COO&CFO of Butamax Advanced Biofuels
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on April 21, 2014
The concept of sustainability, in the not too distant past, might make a CEO cringe with the thoughts of expensive campaigns to appease the "green" trend. Christoph Lueneburger repositions sustainability as the concept with which all else should revolve in order to be profitable. Christoph clearly demonstrates how to create a "culture" of sustainability wherein sustainability is as much of your business ethos as the product you produce.

Should you wish to do business beyond 2014, A Culture of Purpose is essential.

Benjamin Head

Shatter Buggy, Inc.
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on June 18, 2014
Christoph has this nailed. Cultures of purpose make money and have real ROI. Never more than now. I read his book on a recent trip to Kenya. I was surprised by how much what I was reading was reflected in what I saw. Ambitious, modern cultures understand husbanding resources. Dying, complacent, mature cultures often do not. I liked his use of real-world anecdotes to prove his points. This is both a learned and well-researched study. It also reads really well. Not at all a preachy chore. Kudos to him for making this reasoning accessible.
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on May 15, 2014
An excellent analytical book with powerful stories written in a light conversational style. Not only on sustainability or hiring the right people but very much on how organizations can change lead by people with vision and conviction. My favorite chapter “Openess” trusting, admitting, not fudging data, a great combination for success. All change is traumatic.
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on May 22, 2014
When it comes to business culture and sustainability issues and trends, the author has provided great insight and guidance. A must read for leaders interested in growing beyond traditional, stuffy corporate culture. As a practicing sustainability professional, I highly recommend this book.
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on July 2, 2014
reading this book has helped me become a better leader. a better boss. it validates what I have held true and has taught me a few new things as well. a must read for anyone upper management to owner.
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VINE VOICEon July 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am very hard on leadership books. I've grown tired of the laborious collections of quotes and anecdotes tied together with a thin thread of common sense. But when you find a book on leadership that stands out, you usually find a wonderful thing. A Culture of Purpose, never quite lifts off into the rare air of greatness, but it contains some of the more interesting observations in leadership to be made for some time. The crux of the book is the reality that to create a great organization, you need to attract the best talent. To attract the best talent, you must create an atmosphere that transcends the material. I'm sure Mr. Lueneburger would take issue with my use of the word, transcends, but the reality remains that he is indeed talking about the transcendent.

The best and brightest talent is nearly always drawn to purpose. There must be something behind it all or else what is the point? The most confusing part of the book is the author's insistence that Sustainability is the purpose for which all the talent is clamoring. In fact, after the forward and introduction, I thought this was a book on sustainability, not leadership. The word, sustainability and its derivatives are repeated over 30 times in the first 11 pages. It even devolves into a sort of preachy, weakly veiled sales pitch for promoting sustainability in organizations. I truly wanted to pan the book because of this silliness, but Lueneburger lands so near to the heart of the matter, I chose to excuse his agenda in order to embrace what he got correct.

The truth about leadership is that it is so tied to the human condition that we will always come up short when trying to pen a "how-to be a great leader" tome. There is a mystery to the art of leadership. Great leaders do not fit a single mold. But in this book, we are told about the importance of Purpose, Storytelling, Respect, Influence, Energy, Strategy and others. This is a great bit more than the average fare. These qualities, skills or traits as he calls them all point in the same direction: the transcendent. As stated before, the great Purpose the author gives is the crushing need for sustainability in our global society. But it begs the question, "What happens when we achieve sustainability?" Will our purpose for working, for our very being be gone? Are we not kidding ourselves that all these contrived purposes are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? We are left with the reality that the world as we have been led to accept it is in fact completely without purpose. This is my big problem with the book. Any leader who is worth their salt will recognize very quickly that building a "purpose" on sustainability is not sustainable. We as humans need to believe that we get out of bed for something more than to ensure that what we use does not exceed what we create. If that is all we are motivated by, we are in big trouble.

So my contention is that Mr. Lueneburger is correct when he says talent craves purpose. But I think the purpose he is trying to give is good, but weak. It is a good goal to work toward, but it will never sate the incredible thirst that truly drives humanity. We seek to not just make a temporal difference, but a transcendent one. The greatest leaders of all time are not known for their ability to meet challenges or attack obstacles with positive energy. They are known for the towering purpose for which they toiled.

Unfortunately, he never really delivers a "how-to" for building a great organization. Only because it is very difficult to tell someone, "Be a great storyteller." Well, how do I do that? You have to be able to weave a yarn and capture hearts. But how do I do that? You have to care deeply and share intensely. But how do I do that? You must believe in something greater than yourself, something that everyone agrees is a grand goal. But how do I find that? You have to look around and find something that is so grand we all agree that it is a worthy goal. But... you get the point. The truth is the "how" has to be burning inside you. Being a great leader is simply letting your fire burn so brightly that it spreads. Problem with that is that it doesn't break down into a neat list of how-to's.

The Culture of Purpose is well worth reading. I especially enjoyed his inclusion of storytelling for leaders in Chapter 3 on Results Delivery. Read it and enjoy it. But don't be surprised if it leaves you simply wanting more.
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VINE VOICEon May 31, 2014
The content presented in this work, while centering on building cultures of purpose in organizations, also focuses on sustainability because Lueneburger has determined from experience and research that sustainability provides the most reliable blueprint for assembling the building blocks upon which cultures of purpose are built over time. In this sense, sustainability is seen as a means to an end. As explained by the author, "purpose" introduces a shared intent with impact beyond the organization itself, a pledge to do what is thought to be right, going beyond profitable growth, shareholder value, or any other measure of whether things are being done right.

The author interviewed board chairpersons, CEOs, and chief sustainability officers during the course of writing this book, who have come to the conclusion that sustainability is a primary focus of new recruits who are looking not just for jobs but for meaning. As explained by the author in the introduction, mission-led companies vastly outperform the market, and so the time has never been so critical for leaders to focus on building cultures of purpose. The war for talent is real, and the talent economy is gravitating toward cultures of purpose where meaning is seen to be pervasive rather reflected in window-dressing policies about composting and charitable giving.

This book is organized into thirteen chapters across four parts that discuss placing leaders with a purpose at the core (about 40% of the content), hiring talent with a purpose at the frontier, building a culture of purpose, and taking action (one chapter at less than 10% of the content). Author discussion starts by identifying the competencies or acquired skills at the core of a culture of purpose, followed by detailing the key innate traits of people who make up a culture of purpose, addressing the broader attributes a culture of purpose needs to thrive, and developing an actionable plan to structure the building blocks of a culture of purpose.

As a reader, I probably found the most interest in the first part of this book, although I most valued the sidebars concluding almost every chapter, which list probing questions intended as follow-ups to author presentation, as well as red flags for which to look over the course of asking these questions. For example, the author provides the following as red flags after his chapter on openness: "The greatest challenge to openness is a tribal culture, which exacerbates low openness with a lack of balance. Balance, as a cultural attribute, describes the degree to which organizations not only include a diversity of perspectives, skills, and styles but also express, recognize, and leverage the resulting differences. And the less a culture is balanced, the more openness will suffer. If companies could get moldy, this would be how."

In contrast to a related book by Aaron Hurst that I recently reviewed, "The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World", Lueneburger provides a much narrower focus on sustainability as a means to an end, and concentrates heavily on organization level case studies rather than the larger economy, or for that matter, the individual. But in surveying all of the purpose-related texts in the marketplace, each has its purpose. This book is recommended to leaders of organizations looking at sustainability as a means to an end, and how to best draw and retain related talent, but if this is your focus, you will be well served by reading what Aaron Hurst has to offer as well.

The author provides some of his best thoughts in the epilogue, which will hopefully not be missed by readers who do not get to this point. "Throughout history, two conditions have caused cultures of purpose to wane: achieving their purpose or growing beyond the scale that can consistently contain it. Each of these two conditions brings up a key question to take on your journey. Regarding the first, what has to be true about your purpose for it to be itself sustainable? There's a fine balance between being aspirational and being quixotic. On the one hand, the purpose must be more than a cakewalk destination beyond which the bonds between the people reaching it will disintegrate."

"On the other hand, it cannot be so removed from reality that it fails to bond people together with a shared desire to achieve. The good news is that you have an actionable echo of your purpose in the quality of talent that flocks to you and stays with you: the people who make up your culture. As for the second condition, is growth - for example, growth in revenues - a reasonable strategic metric for an organization? It's certainly an effective metric for a cancer, but individual cancers are not around for long if they are successful."

"To be clear: there is nothing wrong with growth per se, but it should be a by-product of doing the right things, rather than the aim of doing things right. It's a good servant, but a terrible master. The kind of growth that markets have historically liked best - say, a steady 5 percent every year - is destructive to a culture of purpose because its constancy makes it the master of the organization. But here, too, we find good news. The steady-growth mentality is gutted by what we know about long-term value creation. Adherence to purpose trumps delivery of invariant growth."
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According to Jim Collins in Good to Great, one of the greatest challenges in business is to "get the right people in the right seats." Of even greater importance, I presume to add, "and on the right bus." In competitive sports as in business, there must be an appropriate "fit" of person with position...and with associates. The key consideration is proper alignment of worker, tasks, and workplace environment. Most mergers fail or at least fall far short of original expectations. Why? One of the most common reasons is incompatible cultural values.

I agree with Christoph Lueneburger: "What is the most important challenge for a twenty-first century leader? Building a culture of purpose." In this book, he explains how to build one or strengthen one that already exists. "The attributes at the core of a culture of purpose are energy, resilience, and openness. Because cultures are made up of people -- and each shapes the other, from the core to the frontier -- the three sets of building blocks depend on and influence each other."

Recent and extensive research on what can be learned from exit interviews of highly-valued workers reveals that they do not feel that they and their efforts are appreciated, and, that they see little (if any) social value in what they are asked to do. Other research studies indicate that, on average, less than 30% of a U.S. company's workforce is actively and productively engaged; the other 80+% are either passively engaged ("mailing it in") or actively engaged in undermining the success of the company.

It is no coincidence that many of the companies that are annually ranked among those that are most highly-regarded and best to work for are also ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry. However different these companies may be in most respects, they all have a culture of purpose whose attributes are energy, resilience, and openness.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Leuneburger's coverage.

o Change Leadership (Pages 15-16)
o Mini-Case Study: How Frank O'Brien-Bernini Rejuvenated Owens Corning (16-26)
o Influencing Others by Embracing Their Problems (31-34)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency of Influencing (43-45)
o Results Delivery (47-50)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency if Results Delivery (61-63)
> Markers for the Competency of Commercial Drive (79-80)
o Strategic Orientation (82-85)
o Making Sustainability Hip (90-93)
o Discovering the Leader: Markers for the Competency of Strategic Orientation (93-95)
o Engagement on Leaders (101-104)
o Understanding the Person:
> Markers for the Trait of Engagement (115-117)
> Markers for the Trait of Determination (133-134)
> Markers for the Trait of Insight (148-149)
o The Primacy of Curiosity (156-158)
o Understanding the Person: Markers for the Trait of Curiosity (161-163)
o Understanding the Culture: Markers for the Trait of Energy (182-183)
> Markers for the Trait of Resilience (197-199)
> Markers for the Trait of Openness (212-213)

Note: The various references to "markers" indicate especially important, indeed defining characteristics of what is essential to effective leadership, to the personal growth and professional development of individuals, and to the ongoing health of organizations.

With regard to the sequence of building a culture of purpose, Christoph Lueneburger obzerves, "Three things are worth pointing out. First, this journey is not linear and monolithic throughout an organization...Second, the building blocks described [i.e. energy, resilience, and openness.] are cumulative...Third, the middle part of this transformation, the conscious transition from reactive to proactive, is the hardest hit." Given the opportunities for personal growth and professional development as well as for organizational transformation, opportunities that otherwise would probably not be available, efforts to "marry purpose to profit" will be well worth it for everyone involved.
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on April 14, 2014
"Sustainability" is a crucial concept for today's long-term business thinkers, but it is also a complex, often confounding notion to tackle in a concise fashion. "A Culture of Purpose" manages to capture its essence while also expanding our understanding of what it means to be a sustainable business - and just as important, to think in a sustainable fashion.

Christoph Lueneburger's approach in this book is excellent for the question at hand: organizing his thoughts and the resulting business insights, according to ways of thinking, rather than just operational excellence. Training our human brains to think of "our species' long-term survival" as Daniel Goldman mentions in his Foreword is an enormous challenge for business thinkers, but Lueneburger captures this thinking by viewing it as a set of detectable attributes: not just "influence" and "commercial drive", but also "energy", "resilience", and "openness".

To capture these attributes further, he builds not only by case study, but by interview and even biography: a thoughtful addition to the normal business school approach. What is it that makes a leader like Jochen Zeitz not only rebuild Puma, but rebuild it around sustainable principles that created opportunity for consistent return? What brought Peter Bakker from CEO of shipping and logistics company TNT to President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development? There is great insight in these interviews, and in unpacking the individual - and deeply human - thought process that then becomes a principle and system for creating growth.

My first encounter with Lueneburger's work was in an interview where he was asked to define sustainability, which he did so in the form of a question: "What would have to be true for me to keep running my businesses indefinitely?" Ever since, I have used this question as the founding inquiry for my own approaches to creating sustainable value in the business world. Expanding that inquiry to book length creates a great addition to the canon of long-term business thinking.

Oh, and not just thoughtful. It's a fantastic read as well!

Disclosure: I am an Aspen Institute Fellow in the same class as the author, Christoph Lueneburger, and my colleagues at Bloomberg LP feature in his book.
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