Ruth Porat on Leading With Purpose
Each year at the BCIU Eisenhower Awards Gala, we recognize leaders who have displayed outstanding achievement in the international arena. This year, Ruth Porat, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet and Google, accepted the 2022 Eisenhower Global Innovation Award in recognition of Google’s commitment to using technology to address some of the biggest challenges facing society today.
In conversation with the other 2022 Gala honorees, Albert Bourla and Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Porat shared with moderator Arianna Huffington about what it means to lead with purpose. Here are lightly edited and condensed insights from Porat:
Establish a “North Star”
According to Porat, having a sense of purpose is a factor in team performance. “Culture is substantially more important to driving strong peak performance than any rules or regulations because it governs what we do every day,” she says.
That said, it’s up to the organization – and especially its leadership – to set the direction and determine that purpose. In Porat’s experience, employees want to know that they’re working on something that will make a difference.
“A key element as leaders is setting that North Star to make it really clear how we have an impact on people’s lives,” Porat says. “Establish the North Star, reach high, and productivity, performance, and delivery will follow.”
Porat cites climate as a focus area for Google, including a goal to help a billion people around the world make smarter climate choices by the end of 2022. One of these solutions is a feature created by Google that allows users searching for travel on the platform to see the carbon footprint of each flight.
“We’re trying to make it easy for people to address climate change in their daily lives,” she says. “It’s the voice of the consumer – it’s what they want. If we can make our products more relevant, then it’s good for the bottom line.”
Create a Positive Flywheel
Porat believes that it’s a misconception that business leaders must choose between what’s good for quarterly earnings and what’s good for the world. “It’s a false choice,” says Porat. “Look at our business and see how what we’re doing resonates with our customers and our employees.”
Porat emphasizes that creating a culture of doing good creates a positive flywheel: By putting purpose first, companies inspire employees to create better work for consumers, meet their customers’ needs, attract more employees and so on, while addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges.
“There are a lot of good reasons to lead with purpose: It’s better for your employees, you’ll get better talent, and it’s better for your customers,” Porat says. “If you’ve got those ingredients, you’re going to do better financially.”