Now, Henderson says, businesses must rethink their role. The compelling narratives in her book follow individuals at the helm of companies like Unilever, Toyota, and Walmart as they pursue profits and purpose with equal ambition.
“At one level, the book is about how there is a business case for business to save the world,” she says. “But the other thing is that we’ll only take advantage of that business case if we think about our mission as businesspeople in a different way—if we are purpose driven, if we think about ourselves as members of a broader community, if we bring our full humanity to work.”
Those values are reflected in Henderson’s life. At MIT, she was fueled by a mechanical engineer’s desire to see the bigger picture: “It really bothered me that I would drive past a factory and not know what was going on inside it,” she recalls. After graduating in 1981, she became one of the first women at the McKinsey office in London and then, curious to understand why some organizations resisted change, embarked upon a PhD in business economics at Harvard. Years later she returned as faculty, and her MBA students encouraged her to write a book. “Sometimes students say, ‘What’s the one thing we should take away?’” she says. “I say, ‘Love the ones you’re with and live the life you have, because that’s all we have.’”
“That’s why I tried to make the book personal,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll solve the problems we face unless we really get personal.”
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