Driven by purpose

Monday, June 21, 2021

Driven by purpose. You will hear this a lot when speaking to Elise ten Hoor, the lead consultant for the digital, data and IT practice at Ebbinge, an executive search company for entrepreneurial mid-market companies, family offices and private equity. 

“In my job, I develop leaders and place them on board level in various Dutch companies. The roles include CIO’s, CTO’s, Chief Digital Officers and CEO’s for tech companies. I believe that by improving and selecting the right people on board level, and by making it more diverse, I can make a positive impact on the Dutch labour market and society.”

Elise studied Psychology at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and did her master’s degree in Organisational Psychology.

“I wanted to combine my love for psychology with my keen interest in business; so, you have the so-called soft and hard skills. I’m fascinated by how people interact with each other in a business setting, and especially by personal development and how to improve professional relationships. Over the past seven years at Ebbinge, a key piece of advice I can give to candidates is to find out what you bring to the table, and how it fits with your purpose.”

In her experience, Elise says there is a lack of gender diversity at board level. However, a lot is being done to address this. 

“It is undeniable that diverse boards are more successful. On every shortlist I deliver, I will try my best to include at least one woman, and I push for more. There is a big change in public and commercial companies, though the latter are still a bit behind. It has never been easy to make a change and it can be uncomfortable at first, but more and more boards are having a change of heart and see the value of diverse teams.”

“Many companies are coming to me to ask for more women, but it is important that we realise that diversity is not only about mixing genders, it is also about mixing people’s backgrounds. It will take time to make this change. But I know what I can do to bring about this change, and I want to raise awareness of this important theme in business. I do this, by entering into dialogue with my clients about the status of diversity in their organisation.”

And what do you look for in a great leader?

“Well, it depends on the company and the role: a CEO must bring something different than a CIO. It depends on what is needed in the company to improve their business, goals and impact they aim to make. For me, I think the most important characteristic of a leader is someone who connects with others in an authentic way. For that, you need someone who is self-aware, open, empathic and who can act intelligently. A natural leader does not play a specific role; they act from their own compass. You can easily recognise they are truly driven and speak from the heart”

“When there is a match between my clients and a new leader, you can catch a glimpse of love. There is a natural flow when the individual and company are perfectly matched. They develop together, not from a place of ego but a shared purpose.”

Her advice to women wanting to make the jump to senior positions is to make space for yourself. This will also help you to have space to connect with others, which allows you to reach your goals.

“I’m a woman, and I’m ambitious to fulfill my purpose in business. I know how it feels to make space for yourself, and yes, also in a room full of men. So, make the jump, it feels great! Only do it when you believe you are ready, find out what it means to be your true self, do not play a role. Find a colleague, mentor or role model who will help and support you. Be curious, and always stay curious. If you feel you lack some skills, go out there and learn the skills. But also, don’t over-study as an excuse because you are just afraid to act or to take the step. Sign up for a leadership programme and find a community like the RightBrains platform.”

“Make sure you create moments of reflection for yourself - and also together with others -  so you turn back to remember your purpose, and stick to it.”

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