Exploring the human purpose of Business

In his authoritative, ground-breaking guide, 'Elites: Can you rise to the top without losing your soul?', Douglas Board suggests that true fulfilment demands an adventure into the unknown inside ourselves: why do we seek what we seek? Prepare to be surprised as you find out more in this HeartEdge workshop exploring themes from this 'interesting,' 'profound' and 'controversial' book.

The FT says: 'Elites looks as though it is another book about how to rise to the top in business. It turns out to be more interesting, and more profound. This is as much a work of social philosophy as it is a business book — an examination of meritocracy, meaning and the “magic tricks” by which a small group sustains itself at the pinnacle of society.'

Forbes says: 'Having worked as a headhunter, executive coach and chairman of a non-governmental organization, Douglas Board has had plenty of exposure to people who run things. So you might expect his book, Elites, to be a simple guide to how to make it or a description of the traits and characteristics of those at the top. Instead, it is something much more interesting, and controversial. For all that time in this rarified atmosphere has convinced him that all is not well there. In particular, he fairly comprehensively debunks the notion that modern workplaces are meritocracies where anybody can expect to reach the top, or at least close to it, through those old virtues of hard work, pleasing superiors, impressing customers, taking responsibility and continuing to learn.' 

Thu, 22 April 2021, 19:00 – 20:30 BST. Register for a Zoom invite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wizards-muggle-crust-and-the-human-purpose-of-business-tickets-146820156039.  

In our lifetimes the purpose of business is being reformed. The idea that this was, exclusively, to make shareholders wealthier is dying (slowly). In relation to the climate emergency, boardrooms have the language (eg net zero) but need more action. But on the human and social side purpose of business our language is lacking (argues Douglas Board). After Grenfell and similar events we react with outrage: but what can guide us beforehand, capturing the positives of commerce as well as its problems?


A thinker and writer on leadership and a coach, Douglas will draw on his book ‘Elites: can you rise to the top without losing your soul?’ to propose that the human purpose of business is to create places (organisations, systems, communities) of extraordinary achievement in which ordinary lives matter. (On Twitter @BoardWryter)

Douglas is the author of two applied research books on leadership and two novels. He is a member of the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel and a senior visiting fellow at the business school (formerly Cass) of City, University of London. He is a past treasurer of the Princess Diana Memorial Fund, chair of the Refugee Council and treasurer of St Martin-in-the-Fields, closely involved in the church’s financial and commercial strategy during the 1990s.

Question master

Revd Jonathan Evens, Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields


Jo Hill is a career regulator. After a long stint at the Financial Services Authority and Financial Conduct Authority she is currently Executive Director of Strategy and Risk at The Pensions Regulator and a Commissioner of the Gambling Commission. She is a passionate advocate for mental health, serving as a Trustee of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and previously a non-executive of the City Mental Health Alliance.

Monisha Shah’s current appointments include the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Ofcom’s Content Board, the Art Fund and chairing the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. She was director of emerging markets for the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and has an MBA from London Business School.

Professor David Grayson CBE is an international thought leader and campaigner on responsible business. He teaches at Cranfield, where he is Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility. He is chair of the Institute of Business Ethics and chair-designate of the international pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire, and has held many board appointments. His books include ‘All in: The Future of Business Leadership’ (2018). He tweets at @DavidGrayson_

Richard Goold is the CEO of Wondrous, a coaching and consulting organisation with the purpose of ‘changing the world of work forever by creating organisations where people flourish so that businesses can thrive’. Their values include magic, courage and warmth – three attributes that resonate strongly when thinking about human purpose. Richard has extensive experience delivering people and talent change in international FTSE 100 organisations and major government departments.

Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, has served as a parish priest for 20 years – 10 of those in urban priority areas. He also spent 7 years as Dean of Duke University Chapel, North Carolina. He is Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College, a regular contributor to Thought for the Day and has published 35 books.