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Responsible leaders as agents of world benefit: learnings from PwC's "Project Ulysses"

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There is widespread agreement in both business and society that MNCs have an enormous potential for contributing to the betterment of the world (WBCSD, 2006). Indeed a discussion has evolved around the role of "Business as an Agent of World Benefit". At the same time there is also growing willingness among business leaders to spend time, expertise and resources to help solve some of the most pressing problems in the world, such as global warming, poverty, HIV/AIDS and other pandemic diseases. One example of business leaders' engagement in citizenship activities is PricewaterhouseCoopers' award-winning leadership development programme called "Project Ulysses" which we present and discuss in this paper. Using a narrative approach, we ask: "What can business leaders learn from selected Ulysses narratives for acting as agents of world benefit?" Our contribution is organised as follows. We begin the paper with a brief discussion on the role of business leaders in the fight against the world's most pressing social problems and address some areas of concern as to whether or not business leaders should play a role in fighting these global issues. We then introduce "Project Ulysses" which takes place in cross-sector partnership in developing countries. Following an overview of the research methodology, we present four Ulysses narratives which tell us about learning in the light of fundamental human problems, such as poverty and misery. Each story is analysed with regard to the above question. We conclude the paper by summarising key lessons learned and some recommendations for business leaders as agents of world benefit.

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