Secret Sauce: What I Learned from the Chief Learning Officer at SAP

Listening to learn expands your influence.

Reflection solidifies learning.

I’m reflecting on what I learned from Jenny Dearborn, SVP and CLO at SAP.

When I asked Jenny Dearborn for her Secret Sauce, she said, “The very first thing I think of is purpose. Understand who you are in the world. Know why you exist.”

Jenny said, “I always had this sense that there was something big and grand that I was part of… I remember my grandmother saying, ‘You’re here to do great things. Don’t waste your talent.’”

Jenny went on to say, “I try to very purposefully make sure that every day is more open and transparent and positive than the day before.”

Reflection one: Purpose fuels transparency.

If you believe you have a place in the world, you must be transparent to fulfill it.

One way to be transparent is to tell your story.

Reflection two: Purpose is found in service.

Self-service is one reason you aren’t fulfilling your purpose. Self-serving leaders might get things done, but they miss the purpose of leadership – serving the greater good.

What about vacations, hobbies, and relaxation? Serve yourself so that you can better serve others. What about retirement?

Retirement, in the traditional sense, is a comfortable word for selfish entitlement. 

Don’t look forward to retirement. Look forward to deeper service. At the end of life, what you give to others is all you have left.

Purposeful life is lived in service to others.

Reflection three: Adversity expands your capacity to serve and deepens your purpose.

Jenny said, “I could choose to wallow in anger and bitterness for years of mistreatment or I could ask, How can these experiences be used to help other people?” (Read about it here.)

Purpose enables you to integrate dark experiences into effective service. It’s not about whining and complaining. It’s about bringing your whole self in service to others.

  1. Distress opens your heart when viewed through the lens of purpose.
  2. Suffering provides tools to show compassion.
  3. Pressing through adversity teaches leaders how to be tough and tender.

How might leaders bring purpose to day-to-day leadership?

How is purpose discovered?


*I relax my 300 word limit on the weekend.