A CEO I’m working with shared a very powerful story with me recently. One of his employees sent him an email the day after the tragic killing of George Floyd. It was a short email.

The employee simply asked him what he was going to do about the situation. The CEO’s first reaction was: “What am I going to do about this? This is my problem?” And then he paused a moment and said to himself, “Yes, yes, it is my problem.” The CEO told me that he realized in that moment something crucial about being a leader.

He said: “People are hurting, they’re upset, and they’re afraid. They’re looking to me for help, support, and to explain my company’s role in finding a solution. They’re looking to me for leadership. I realized in that moment that as the leader I was responsible for more than delivering profits — I was being asked to deliver purpose.”

Stories like these are not uncommon. We are hearing them more and more during this period of extraordinary disruption. The lesson of 2020 seems to be that we’re all interconnected, that we’re all being disrupted, and that CEOs are expected to do so much more than deliver financial results.

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