Unleashing the power of purpose-driven leadership

What is purpose-driven leadership, and why is it so popular? To find out, we looked at the journey of Managing Partner at Rockstart AgriFood Fund, Mark Durno, and identified the role Rotterdam School of Management’s Executive MBA program played in his success.

In short

The rise of purpose-driven leadership in context

Purpose-driven leadership has become a key focus for higher education institutions who have identified a wider trend globally. For example, since the turn of the century, there has been an explosion in self-help books aimed at finding your purpose. 

The movement gathers pace when major events give people the feeling that they should be doing something meaningful with their lives. For example, when the 2007-2008 financial crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic brought the economy to its knees. People without work found themselves with more time on their hands and used it to find a sense of purpose. 

The result for many was a shift in values. It turns out people want to spend more time with their families and give back to their communities. As a result of this movement, the idea of making money for money’s sake is rapidly slipping out of fashion. 

Consumers are voting with their wallets too. A 2022 Google study found that 82% of shoppers prefer a consumer brand’s values to align with their own. This has brought about a change in priorities for businesses, and leaders who feel passionately about certain issues are in higher demand than ever. 

Against this backdrop, it’s unsurprising that EMBA students like Mark Durno look for a business education that puts purpose first. He found that at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). “We really wanted to professionalize and bring in a few more layers of management so the timing was perfect to do an Executive MBA” he says. “RSM having a purpose to have a positive impact on the world was one of the defining factors that made me go there and choose to do an Executive MBA at RSM.” (01:39)

Mark’s purpose: Investing in a sustainable world

Although finding your purpose is such a hot topic, it can be hard to do. A purpose could be anything from mitigating climate change and promoting social justice to being an entertainer or teaching. In any case, you can only find your life purpose by having an open mind and saying yes to opportunities. 

Mark found his purpose during his childhood on a farm. Now, with Rockstart’s AgriFood Fund, he invests in “very early stage founders who are purpose-driven towards specific domains, namely agri-food energy and emerging technologies.” (00:46

As a Managing Partner, he has aligned his passion with his career, one of the cornerstones of purpose-driven leadership. By taking the EMBA, he put himself in the right place to lead Rockstart’s AgriFood Fund’s mission: “to fund a transformation to a regenerative and sustainable future”. (00:39)

How does an executive MBA help you advance in purpose-driven leadership?

One of the clearest benefits of an executive MBA is that you dive into an environment of equally ambitious leaders. For Mark, this close contact was a defining factor in his experience. “The biggest takeaway for me was the teamwork and what role I played within a team. We were at RSM really intensively trained on working together in small groups of six, and these teams and those teams would change over time as well.” (01:47)

In addition to the formal business training Mark knew he needed, the EMBA exposed him to a cohort of unique individuals. Everyone brought their story, background, and skill set to enhance the experience. Specifically, Mark studied alongside “everything from financiers to Engineers to other business graduates who were honing their skills in the Executive MBA.” (02:10)

With the Rotterdam School of Management’s EMBA curriculum and insights from other candidates, Mark graduated with a solid knowledge of how to run a business. He also gained inspiration and potential contacts to push Rockstart’s AgriFood Fund forward.

Personal growth through the Executive MBA

Mark’s passion for transformation goes back to a very young age. “I remember being on the farm as a teenager and having heated discussions with my father about the farming practices that we would have.” (00:07) That sort of passion is valuable, but if it isn’t targeted correctly, it can hinder success.

In this regard, the program served as a personal learning experience. “What’s changed for me before and after doing the MBA is recognizing that me as an individual, and my emotional state, and my personal life are all factors that actually play into my professional life as well.” (02:16)

Part of purpose-driven leadership is knowing how to apply your drive most efficiently, which allows projects like Mark’s to compete with profit-driven companies. Mark identified a significant learning curve in his maturity. Rather than throwing himself into every opportunity, he now has the restraint to channel his passion into areas where he can bring the most impact.

If you’d like to message a Rotterdam School of Management alum directly, head to the MBAGRADSCHOOLS Ambassador page. They’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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