Lead through uncertainty by serving others


Grant Thornton CEO Brad Preber finds purpose in service


#LeadingWithPurpose conversation highlights how to lead today


The speed and severity of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the recent civil unrest, have shaken the world and caused all of us to reevaluate our roles. For Grant Thornton’s CEO, Brad Preber, it’s meant focusing on three key challenges: taking care of the firm’s people, being there for its clients, and keeping Grant Thornton healthy. It’s also meant reflecting on what servant leadership means.Headshot of Brad Preber

“In times of immense challenge, leaders need to fully embrace the concept of service,” says Preber. “Service to their people, to their organizations, to their communities. That’s the purpose of leadership. I wanted to start that conversation to see what we all could learn from other leaders confronting challenging times.” To prompt that conversation, Preber invited connections to share personal stories, lessons or mottos about servant leadership and purpose directly or on LinkedIn using #LeadingWithPurpose to serve as a source of inspiration for all who are leading in uncertain times.

The responses have been varied and enlightening. Here is what we learned:

1. Act on your values

The COVID-19 crisis reminded Greg Pryor, Senior Vice President, Workday People & Purpose of lessons he learned from Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol tampering crisis in 1982. “During an unprecedented crisis where there were no policies or processes to follow, they applied their values, the company’s principles, to guide decisions that would build brand goodwill for decades,” said Pryor.



2. Craft a vision for the future, and the day-to-day

As a sponsor of both the PGA TOUR and THE PLAYERS Championship, Grant Thornton has watched carefully as the TOUR considers when and how to restart competition. The PGA TOUR recently announced plans to resume, starting with the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 10. The TOUR recognizes the responsibility of being one of the first professional sports to re-open and combine that vision with a detailed 37-page health and safety report to protect its players, caddies and everyone else involved with bringing golf back.

“We do feel a sense of great responsibility and great opportunity here,” said Andy Pazder, Chief of Tournaments and Competition for the PGA TOUR when asked how the organization felt about leading the way in returning competitive sports to the American landscape. “It’s not just related to sports, it’s related to the business of America. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.”


3. Be agile, embrace fearlessness

Despite the many unknowns that leaders face, this pandemic is certain to drive new innovations in all industries. Rod Johnson, President, Head of Americas, Infor knows that the momentum to create a new tomorrow doesn’t come from staying in place.

Says Johnson: “Just as organizations today need to be agile, leaders also need to embrace agility, sometimes moving out front to boldly lead the charge.”

4. Listen to others and be present

Above all, it’s important to remember that this pandemic is affecting everyone, and those effects may take different forms for different people – physically, mentally, financially and more,” wrote Fred Whitfield, President and Vice Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, as he describes the Hornets’ and the National Basketball Association’s response to COVID-19 and its repercussions.

“We want to make sure that our staff have the resources they need to take care of themselves, and that our fans, partners and community know that we are here for them during this difficult time. Staying positive, communicating, and being as open and transparent as possible will hopefully keep your team engaged and help your supporters feel your encouragement for them.”

5. Find strength in teams

Asindia Cheng, the Senior Director of North American Applications Advisory and HCM Alliances & Channels, Oracle, shared an image, a piece of art, that has inspired her sense of #LeadingWithPurpose.

“One of my favorite images is Hokusai’s ’Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” said Cheng. “I find this piece especially inspiring now, as we face a pandemic and what feels like a great wave coming at us. The fishermen huddled in their boats serve as a reminder that we’re in this together, and strong teams weather even the most menacing-looking storms. I am grateful for the fantastic teams that I’ve served and been a part of, and this image reminds me of how we have, and will continue to, get through it together.”

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