Redlands Business & Society Blog

News and Views from the University of Redlands School of Business & Society

Purposeful Leadership in a New Era of Business

A common understanding of business is that it is inextricably and solely aligned with profitability. However, a significant shift is underway that broadens the purpose of corporations[1]. Today, businesses of all sizes are expected to engage in and contribute to the greater good. Moreover, that greater good is multifaceted and includes environmental responsibility, racial and social equity, community health, and the ethical application of technology, to name a few.

In the largest sense of the phrase, “environment, social, and governance (ESG)” melds profitability with social good. It’s about businesses using their resources to create both monetary value and societal value, or what Michael Porter and Mark Kramer call “shared value.[2]” With a holistic, stakeholder-centric focus, business is charting new territory, and business leaders must find the corresponding experience and education they will need to be effective in this new era.

Revising the Business Education Game Plan

As the nature of business undergoes a sea change, so does business education. It must encompass a curriculum that stimulates innovative and ethical thinking, helps students develop a focus on inclusivity and social responsibility, expands their viewpoints to include multifaceted perspectives, and prepares them for decision-making informed by a broad array of data.

The University of Redlands School of Business & Society has not only kept pace with the modern business environment but has also instituted distinctive curricular initiatives to prepare students to be business leaders in this new era. We began this transformation in 2018 when we crafted our strategic plan for the (then) Redlands School of Business that expressed our mission as empowering our students to positively impact business and society.

Since then, we have been on a path to change how business education is delivered and to influence how business leaders think and approach problem-solving. To accomplish that, we have carefully embedded the concept of social responsibility throughout our entire business program. It is our goal to heighten the way businesses work through a distinctive professional education so that business doers, dreamers, and trailblazers have the tools they need to make a real-world impact.

With these plans in place, we recently launched the University of Redlands School of Business & Society. The first of its kind, the Redlands School of Business & Society integrates and enhances the University’s business programs to empower students to become leaders—people who do the right things that positively impact their businesses, their community, and the world. To guide our efforts, we established seven pillars that support our undergraduate, graduate, and professional pathways. These both inform and are informed by the 21st-century concepts and skills we instill in our students to prepare them to become principled business leaders who will advance their organizations and society.

Learn more about the University of Redlands School of Business & Society undergraduate, graduate, and professional pathways.

Our Purposeful Leadership & Inclusive Management Pillar

Today’s business leaders are charged with influencing a range of outcomes that drive their corporations’ missions. They must empower a broad range of stakeholders to achieve their highest potential and connect them to critical business and societal goals. They must create structure and purpose for teams and help them effectively manage change in the workplace.

It’s imperative that our students graduate with the tools necessary to be purposeful and inclusive managers. Our first pillar—Purposeful Leadership & Inclusive Management—guides us in establishing curricular and co-curricular initiatives that serve that objective. In terms of curriculum, we have created a new Master of Science in Organization Leadership (MSOL) program that features a purposeful leadership capstone course. We have reviewed (and continue to study) our curriculum to ensure coverage of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues throughout the curriculum. We are also creating new scholarship programs, such as our Esri-UR STEM scholarship for Women of Color.

Beyond the curriculum, our faculty are involved in purposeful leadership research and industry outreach through the Banta Center for Ethical and Purposeful Leadership, which also sponsors student awards in purposeful leadership and social impact. All these initiatives are designed to help students understand how to identify purpose on the levels of self, teams, organization, and society and how to employ those dimensions to shape organizational strategies that have an impact. The result is students who have the skills and mindset necessary to lead and make a difference in private businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. In short, we are ensuring our graduates will be purposeful leaders who are well-prepared to address the most critical business issues of our day with robust solutions.

[1] Horan, T. (2020), The Arc of Purposeful Leadership, Leader to Leader Journal, Summer, 47-52.

[2] Porter, M. and Kramer, M. (2011). Creating Shared Value, Harvard Business Review, 89(1,2), 2-17.