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Why Boards need a CPO

Organisational success has traditionally been seen as being dictated almost exclusively by having a strong CEO, CFO and COO: heroes and mythical-type personalities at the top of any business. A more realistic view then arose which took account of the strong systemic factors at play within any organisation. Success became defined by strong leadership at all levels, board and below. It became about navigating the sweet spot between the personal/interpersonal and the systemic factors at play within the organisational culture. 

More recently the focus has moved to context, success now arising from adapting well to the digital (fourth industrial) revolution that is taking place. Leaders are required to engage successfully with the disruptors within and beyond their traditional business sector. 

The personal/interpersonal, systemic and contextual lenses are all, of course, valid. The question is how to work with all three. The answer: PURPOSE. Individual purpose aligned with organisational (systemic) purpose and both aligned ultimately with the overall higher purpose; the latter being what the context is calling forth from each of the other two. 

The issue is that global organisations that take advantage of the digital revolution can move into almost any sector of their choosing now. Selecting which, and focussing on direction while remaining flexible and responsive, requires significant levels of alignment throughout. Alignment can only be created around an agreed overriding purpose. Leadership at any level including the board then becomes less about the person or the title but more about the actions taken in role in the pursuit of that purpose. It is this that provides clarity: the orientation for and expectations of everyone within the business. It has to be non-negotiable. 

What really needs to change if organisations are to do this successfully is that we need to create a new role: that of the CPO (Chief Purpose Officer) at board level whose sole charge is to hold everyone to account. Arguably this has always been important. It will now be the key differentiator.

For more please reach out to me or read my book The Enlightened Organization.