Case Study
The better the question The better the answer The better the world works
Case Study

How a leadership program instills a purpose-driven mindset

Learn how a small group of people became a larger, more diverse team to create a new type of leadership development program. 

Team Celebrating Victory
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The better the question

Do great leaders emerge from a moment or a mindset?

Purpose-driven leadership is one of the most challenging behaviors to teach.

Great leadership is vital to building a better working world, but it’s one of the most challenging behaviors to teach. At EY, the best leaders are those who lead with a sense of purpose. Knowing their purpose gives these leaders a filter to make choices, at work and at home, that helps them find greater fulfillment in all they do, inspiring others to do the same. There are many classes and seminars to help leaders connect with a larger purpose; but after the session is over, how do you keep developing these ideas in your day-to-day life?

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The better the answer

A journey to become purpose-driven leaders

Aspire is a learning program that focuses on sustainable development.

A small group of EY people came together to answer this. They had a shared vision and one common goal: create a leadership development program different than any other ever developed — one that inspires purpose-driven leaders sustainably.

To create a successful program, they first needed a committed and passionate team — one with the right mix of people bringing diverse views and strengths that could be reflected in the program’s design and development. Four people grew into a diverse team of 15 across different ranks, regions and service lines. To draw on different experiences, they consulted with a group of young EY personnel who had been doing something similar to advise on community-based learning. And to draw on different perspectives, they sought input from millennial colleagues who provided insights and personal reflections that helped the program resonate with millennial participants.

Their vision was realized with the creation of Aspire, a three-year virtual learning journey where new managers experience leading practices and learnings. Instead of one-off learning sessions, Aspire allows new managers to continually assess and advance their leadership development.

The program is built on 10 traits of purpose-driven leaders, such as empathy, creating safe, trusting team environments and providing opportunities to motivate, celebrate and develop others. Each trait is revealed sequentially in 10-week intervals. This technique continually reinforces concepts by having participants explore curated content, practice with activities, discuss their learnings with peers and reflect on their improvement.

The team also knew that success depended on the engagement of participants. To initially launch Aspire, an application process was developed, focusing on participants who showed a commitment to self-development and helping others. This helped the program build a community of fully invested learners.

As participants engage daily with the content and each other, they’re looking for ways to make it even better. Through feedback, the Aspire team continually adjusts and improves the course structure. In its agility, Aspire is creating the same incremental improvements in the program as it is in participants.

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The better the world works

From leading to teaming

Learnings from the program benefit participants in their day-to-day lives as they apply those skills to their own teams and beyond.

In only its second year, and with approximately 1,000 participants, the program’s impact can already be felt in the passion of the leaders it’s creating:

“This program is really different … because we get the chance to develop our leadership skills all year round. I’m able to take what I’ve learned and share it with my team … I’m learning skills that I don’t get on a project alone,” says Mallory Spigel, Financial Services Manager, Ernst & Young LLP.

As participants infuse the program’s learnings in their own teams, their focus on the bigger picture empowers the individuals they lead to find purpose in their own engagements, too.

Through their journey to develop leaders who will go on to become a part of highest performing teams at the EY organization, the Aspire team itself has grown into a shining example of a highest performing team — one that knows it takes a diverse mix of talent and perspectives to create an exceptional outcome.