In my last blog post I wrote about how Microsoft has put empathy at the centre of its business strategy. CEO Satya Nadella went further than that, saying empathy was crucial to Microsoft’s very existence — he called it an “existential priority.”

Empathy is part of the Emotion and Intuition Element of Responsible Leadership.

The way Microsoft deploys empathy also gives the whole company a sense of Mission and Purpose, itself an Element of Responsible Leadership.

The Five Elements of Responsible Leadership

These are two of the Five Elements of Responsible Leadership that Accenture surfaced in comprehensive research in collaboration with the WEF’s Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers Community. I wrote more about the research, its purpose and the five elements it uncovered a few weeks ago in the first post in this series.

Another organization that prioritizes Mission and Purpose in its leadership practices is the world’s largest energy company, Engie. It was formed in 2008 when Gaz de France merged with Suez, the company that, in 1858, built the Suez canal.

The energy giant’s CEO until May 2020 was Isabelle Kocher, a biblical scholar and the daughter of a senior manager at the French telecoms company Alcatel. She ran the Suez water business until it merged with Gaz de France. After that, she was promoted to finance and operations director, and moved through the ranks to be appointed CEO in 2016. She says that religion or wisdom, spirituality and values are important to her personally — and also to the business.  She is quoted as saying that companies can “help people get out of poverty and contribute to the emergence of a different way of living that is more respectful of the planet.”

She said it was her mission to make Engie a driver of the global energy transition.

Her tenure at Engie was laser focused on the company’s strategic mission. In 2016, the company set the goal to become the world leader in the zero-carbon transition. Just three years later, it announced plans to close a gigawatt of generation capacity in Chile and Peru while committing to replace that with a gigawatt of wind and solar generation in Chile.

Under her leadership, the company moved quickly. It faced rising carbon prices and tighter emissions controls, and knew it had to do something differently if it was going to thrive in an increasingly strict operating environment.

Kocher interpreted climate change as a lever for radical change. “The sector must face a revolution in order to meet the challenge and move towards a world that is decarbonized, partly decentralized and digitalized, and where energy is available to all, including developing countries.”

I’m sure you recognise this approach as being very stakeholder-centric, which embodies the Stakeholder Inclusion element of Responsible Leadership.

The company restructured and disposed of some operations, raising €15-billion, which the company re-invested in renewable and sustainable energy. It also earmarked €1,5-billion for investment in innovation and digital.

The approach yielded inspiring results: between 2012 and 2018, Engie cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half, and reversed a fall in revenue that began in 2013. A year after initiating its transition, Engie was back in the black.

It’s tempting to see Engie’s success as a cold-blooded business move that transitioned the company to renewables. But it is Kocher’s values-driven approach to life that has spilled over into the organization, providing a clear view of how the Responsible Leadership element of Mission and Purpose can transform an organisation and even an industry.

The full report is fascinating and synthesises insights with illustrative case studies. You can read it here: Seeking New Leadership: Responsible leadership for and sustainable and equitable world. I am always open to chat to you about how Accenture uses this and other research to share insights with our customers. And I read all the mail I receive. Feel free to reach out to me here.