• Subscribe to Meet the Leader on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
  • This fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • Carmine Di Sibio, EY CEO, shares lessons on leading with purpose and how programs that tackle upskilling and neurodiversity contribute to society and the bottom line.

How can modern leaders motivate and make an impact? Through purpose.

"The days of the imperial CEO, they're gone," explained Carmine Di Sibio, Global Chairman and CEO of EY, one of the largest professional services firms in the world.

The classic top-down approach "wouldn't last a week" in contemporary firms where leaders can't just dictate orders to a small team and have an impact. Today's leaders "need to have a purpose and a strategy" to ensure their teams know what the organization is trying to accomplish, said Di Sibio on this week's Meet the Leader.

With 300,000 employees, Di Sibio knows his firm can impact society at scale. Such a purpose-driven approach has lead to programs that can contribute to the bottom line and the greater good. A special neurodiversity program, for instance, brings much-needed skillsets for analytics and pattern recognition into EY, while providing jobs for people with autism, a group often overlooked by employers.

Other efforts help equip EY's staff with the skill steams will need in an increasingly global and digital future. Upskilling programs and a special 'tech MBA' ensures teams can keep pace with fast-moving changes in technologies such as AI and blockchain. These programs help the company grow while keeping teams sharp.

Business leaders have a responsibility to society, says Di Sibio. A commitment to 'stakeholder capitalism' (a principle that considers the needs of all stakeholders) helps drive other EY commitments, such as the firm's recent pledge to go carbon negative by 2021 or Di Sibio's call for companies to adopt the ESG metrics, a set of non-financial measures that help measure progress companies make in areas such as gender pay gaps or environmental standards.

As the COVID crisis has highlighted gaps in society, leaders have a special opportunity to help speed progress on many big global challenges, from the climate to inclusion. "I do think leaders have to step up here," said Di Sibio.

Acting will start with listening, as leaders find new ways to work for people and the planet. As Di Sibio wrote in one recent column, "It is difficult to predict the future accurately. But you certainly can shape it, if you’re willing to think and act differently."

Listen to Meet The Leader's sister podcasts World Vs Virus, about the global pandemic, House On Fire, our 10-part environmental series, and The Great Reset, on the efforts to 'build back better'.

Articles by Carmine:

A book he recommends:
I Love Capitalism!: An American Story, Ken Langone. This book shares the story of how the Long Island native became a world-class philanthropist, a director of the New York Stock Exchange and the co-founder of Home Depot. The book shows the types of opportunities that capitalism can make possible, said Di Sibio. "It's a truly great book."

A habit he can't work without: The right question at the right time. For Di Sibio, every workday is a chance to learn something new. "If you're at your job and you're not learning," he explains, "you should change your job."

He is energized by talking to his people and often peppers his team to learn more about them and what they are experiencing on the ground. Those questions are essential to leading a staff, says Di Sibio. "To be an effective manager today, you have to know how to motivate - and how to listen to your employees and your people."