Good Leaders Podcast Episode 7 – Tom Rippin: ‘Good leadership is the ability to envisage a very different future’

What does it take to lead a pioneering organisation in the new impact economy? In our Good Leaders podcast, founding editor Tim West grills some of those balancing purpose, profit and personal challenges, as they navigate the ups and downs of mission-driven business. This month: Tom Rippin, founder and CEO of On Purpose.

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With not one, but two dramatic career shifts under his belt, social entrepreneur Tom Rippin decided to help others to do the same – aiming to train the next generation of professionals who will transform the economy for the better.

In 2010, Rippin, formerly a biochemistry researcher then management consultant, founded On Purpose, a one-year leadership programme for people who already have several years’ professional experience, often in the private sector, looking to switch careers to work for a purpose-driven organisation.

His first milestone: convincing five people to “take a punt” and quit their jobs for a brand new project. By the end of this year, more than 1,000 people will have completed the On Purpose programme, across three cities – London, Paris and Berlin – creating a unique community committed to making a difference and ready to collaborate.

“We are all actually special human beings with incredible stories to tell,” he says. “And if we take that time to get to know each other, we can appreciate that in each other, and that creates amazing relationships, amazing connections. And interestingly, in systems change, a lot is about relationships and connections as well.”

In systems change, a lot is about relationships and connections

For someone in the business of leadership development, what does it mean to be a good leader? Rippin insists On Purpose doesn’t subscribe to any one formula in particular – giving the tools to programme participants to make their own decisions. 

But he acknowledges it is about a general mindset. “[Good leadership] is that ability to be able to envisage a future that is very different, that is rooted in a different set of values and a different set of assumptions, in a different set of beliefs about how the world works, how the economy works and how organisations work.”

In the podcast, Rippin uncovers the ins and outs of On Purpose’s success story, tells us why fundraising failures were a blessing in disguise, and explains how an outdated view of science is holding back social progress.


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