Dilhan Pillay Bio
Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara is the top executive at Temasek, a Singapore-based investment company with a portfolio of around $400 billion. Before joining Temasek in 2010, he was a lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and corporate law. He is a member of the Future Economic Council, sponsored by the Singapore Government; and a member of the Financial Centre Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He also serves on the boards of the National Research Foundation, Enterprise Singapore and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

November 28, 2022

Dilhan Pillay Leads Temasek Holding’s Ongoing Purpose Journey

Temasek Holdings is an investment firm owned by the Government of Singapore. CEO Dilhan Pillay says the firm’s ongoing “purpose journey” helps it keep an eye on the long term while navigating the tricky tides of current events. 


Ranjay Gulati:

Business leaders today face extraordinary challenges. Here are just a few big ones: inflation, climate change, supply chain chaos, fast changing technologies, war in Europe, workforce upheaval. My guest this time runs a global investment company based in Asia. He says a clear sense of purpose is critical for companies to succeed in such disruptive times.

Hi everyone. This is Deep Purpose, a podcast about courage and commitment in turbulent times. I’m Ranjay Gulati, a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. My guest Dilhan Pillay is the CEO and Executive Director of Temasek Holdings in Singapore. Temasek is owned by the Government of Singapore. It has a portfolio of more than 400 billion. Temasek invests in a wide range of industries, real estate, financial services, telecom, media, agriculture among others. It is the majority owner of Singapore Airlines and a number of other prominent companies. And that’s just a slice of Temasek’s portfolio.

When I first visited Temasek in Singapore, it puzzled me that investors would care about purpose and about the broader role of business in society. But I learned that Temasek is on the frontier, helping businesses, situate their role in society, while at the same time delivering on their commitment to their shareholders. Meanwhile, Temasek went on an inner journey of its own to clarify its purpose and how that purpose animates Temasek employees. When Dilhan Pillay looks at the business horizon, he sees a score of issues confronting executives today, and he unfolded for me a remarkably coherent view of that vast horizon. Let’s listen.

Dilhan Pillay:

But first, let me say that the last 40 years have been an incredible period of peace and prosperity for the world as a whole. Probably unprecedented in the history of time that we’ve had such a long period where there’s been relative peace and prosperity uplifting of billions of people into the middle class and basically the uplifting of living standards in almost every country in the world. I think that’s something we should bear in mind. And what we’re seeing today is the convergence of a number of external events, which have truly caused ripple effects leading to disruptive effects across political, social, and economic dimensions.

If you asked me back in 2019, would I have seen in my lifetime a period when my movements will be restricted, I would not be able to see loved ones across the oceans, I would not be able to travel for business, I would say not possible. And yet that’s exactly what we went through for most of 2020 and 2021, but that was not the only thing that we are facing. We already were facing challenges to our business models, the need to change business models to be in line with a new tech enabled world. One where we ourselves had be tech enabled, not just from in a business sense, but even individually in order to be able to continue to evolve as a society.

And that was the first challenge we had even in 2019. And as we thought about industry 4.0 and how we bring companies along on that journey, we have to think about the workforce as well. And that social cost of transitioning into new business models was something that we all had to think about, not just governments or businesses as well, because at the end of the day, if we truly believe in multi stakeholder capitalism, we have to take the account the effects of business model changes on our employees, on our suppliers, on the communities, in which we operate and not just in relation to returns for our shareholders and compensation for business leaders.

And if I didn’t go forward, you then had COVID-19 and we’re still in the pandemic world. We’re getting used to living in the pandemic world so it’s perhaps an endemic world that we are in today, but is this really exogenous shocks? For a long time, people been talking about us having to be prepared for a pandemic, and we’ve sort of fobbed it off because we said well, it’s not happened, that whenever something has happened, it’s been contained, it’s been more regional than global. And so when COVID-19 happened, it was a real shock to the system. Just consider the amounts that governments had to put in to stimulate the economy, to keep businesses going, to keep people employed, to make sure that people had food on the table. Phenomenal, phenomenal stimulus that had gone into every single country’s budget in order to make that available to businesses and individuals out there.

But the pandemic could be said to be foreseeable. And in an interconnected world, a globally interconnected world where we travel across oceans, why would we be thinking that something that starts in Asia would not find its way to all parts of the world? It would not be logical if you think about what it needs to be in a globally connected world. And so the pandemic is a second thing, but post pandemic world is also a different issue. There are different issues for us to consider. Will there be rising nationalism? What will be the social policy? What will be the relationship between government and people? Will we see a reemergence of the social contract as a result of government stimulus that went into keeping businesses going in order to keep society cohesive? These are big questions for us, not just for governments, but also for businesses to think about as we engage not just employees, but also the communities in which we operate.

But then again, we now are our facing the issue of rising inflation, increasing possibilities of stagflation, increasing possibilities of recessions in various geographies around the world. Because again, we’re interconnected world, supply chain disruptions starting from someplace in Asia have a knock on effect everywhere in the world, not just in Asia, but in the US and Europe. And then we’ve got the prospects of rising interest rates and that means that we are potentially looking at a world with lower growth as the World Bank and IMF has suggested, but also lower returns. But if inflation gets to be at an elevated level for a long time, and if we see stagflation or we see recessions, then the consumption patterns will change. The consumer will be impacted, and that has knock on effects as well, all over the world, including supply chains. And that will exacerbate situations like that.

So we have to think about these things. We also have to think about geopolitical issues. It used to be a time when investors like us thought well, geopolitical issue is something we keep in mind, but don’t have to really delve into in detail to understand the knock on effects. I think that has changed. It’s not just US, China. It’s not just Russia, Ukraine. It’s the fact that geopolitical events are going to be part and parcel of the future. We are going to see that changes are constant and we have to get comfortable with ambiguity and that ambiguity will arise as a result of this geopolitical shifts as well. So these are things that we are thinking about, and we have to think about whether we are effectively going to see a decoupling. Decoupling supply chains, decoupling hope in financial systems perhaps, decoupling in terms of globalization, from a global trading block to regional trading blocks.

These are all things that we have to think about. So increasingly CEOs have to not just look at strategic planning for businesses on a three to five year timeframe, allocation of capital is never given for, I mean generally not given for the period extending five years, but perhaps now we have to spend more time on scenario planning. So that can actually help us think about what the long term looks for us and how we keep an eye on the long term while we deal with the short term issues that we have to take you to consideration as we build our businesses. We believe that purpose helps you withstand the shorter term shocks that you may face as you go along that journey towards your longer term goals. It’s worked for us in Temasek, we do think that it does work for many organizations. We do encourage our companies to think about purpose, but we do not mandate it even for the companies we own 100%.

Ranjay Gulati:

As a seasoned investor, Dilhan Pillay knows that a strong management team is an essential component of a successful business. I asked him what he looks for in leadership. What are the critical skills today’s leaders must have in the global business environment? He just laid out for us.

Dilhan Pillay:

Because have to have a strong sense of purpose. And if we have a strong sense of purpose, they bring that to the organization and becomes organizational purpose. They bring the employees along with them on that purpose journey. I think that’s critical. Whatever your strategies are, whatever you think you’re going to be doing next 10 years, if you don’t have that solidified by purpose of the company, you’re not going to be able to pull your employees with you on that journey.

It’s very difficult to be a CEO today if you’re trying to be an imperial CEO and say this is where we’re going, let’s charge, let’s move forward. You have to bring people along because organizations today have evolved and individuals have the ability to move around and look for other opportunities. So if you want to still be an employee of choice, you have to reach out, communicate effectively, bring people along on your journey, your purpose journey, and therefore the organization’s purpose journey as you look into implementing these strategies for long-term value. CEOs have to have their eye on long-term value because it’s only when you look at long-term value that you can deal with the shorter term issues and figure out whether they actually are going to end up being existential issues for you, or are they going to be growth issues for you?

Ranjay Gulati:

So do you think purpose is kind of a forcing mechanism to get these people to think about their long term goals, at the same time, it becomes a rallying cry to attract talent and bring good people to join you?

Dilhan Pillay:

Yeah, I think it’s a combination of both, isn’t it? It serves as a way of having a marker for you as to where you’re going and to explain why you’re going on that journey, why you have the objective that you’ve set forward, and then you bring people along. It’s a rallying cry for everyone to come around that stated objective and let’s move together.

For example, climate change, right? If you accept that climate change is an existential issue on multiple levels, including for your company, then you have to have a strategy around climate change, mitigation, adaptation, and transition, and you have to then explain to your workforce why it’s important to address it now, what are the knock on effects of addressing it now, how we are going to go on the journey to achieve adaptation and transition, and what’s the cost to us and what’s the benefit? Without doing that, I don’t see how you’re going to bring your folks along with you on that journey, which is a multi-year journey, and how you’re going to bring along different generations of leaders on that journey because the objective will be met far beyond your 10 years as CEO and that’s what you have to focus on.

Speaker 3:

Temasek’s purpose is to do well, do right, do good so every generation prospers.

Ranjay Gulati:

You have made sustainability a key initiative and right from the get go, you set ambitious targets not only for Temasek, but also for your portfolio companies for the decades to come from 2030 and onwards. And now you’re even measuring yourself on carbon adjusted returns. Is this good for business? What percentage of value of your portfolio is really moving in this direction? Tell us a bit more about your efforts and why you see this as important for Temasek to do.

Dilhan Pillay:

I think, first of all, our journey in sustainability started before I took over as CEO of the company. It started my predecessor, and I was part of her team and we agreed that this is an important issue for us to address. In fact, it was part of what we called our T2020 journey we started in 2011, but it really took momentum after 2016, after the Paris Agreement at the end of 2015. And we accepted that this will be a multi-year effort to go forward. And I’m continuing that journey that was started back in 2016. So it’s an evolutionary process for us, I think that’s the first thing I want to say. It’s a journey even for Temasek.

Temasek sees its role as a provider of capital, as a party that will join others, investors, financiers, governments, in contributing towards achieving net zero 2050, and the carbon goals that are needed to be achieved in interim period to reach net zero 2050. That means we have to make sure our capital is catalytic for that purpose as well. So we’ve set certain targets for ourselves as an institution. The first is that we’ve said okay, we’ll be net neutral every year from now on. And since 2020, which we’ve been doing the second is that we’ve set in 2030, the emissions attributable to us in our entire portfolio will be half of what it was in 2010 and it’s not easy to reach a target because we own 55% of an airline so that’s incredibly difficult target. The third is we said, we’ll be net zero in 2050.

Now to achieve that, we’re doing a number of things. First of all, we’ve set our internal cost of carbon, which we now impose on all of our investments. It’s looked at in the context of things that we are evaluating and things that we eventually close. So that cost is today $42 US per ton of CO2 equivalent and it’s going to rise, and we anticipate that by 2030, it’ll be a hundred dollars per ton of CO2 equivalent. We are going to put that into the cost of capital. Right now it’s taken as a charge against the total emissions we have against our portfolio returns for compensation purposes, but eventually we’ll roll it out in our cost of capital framework so that every investment has the right cost of capital in terms of how we allocate our capital across the sectors and the markets that we invest in. So that’s the first thing that we’ve done.

The second thing is that we’ve set aside a significant amount of capital every year to invest in sustainability focused sectors: food, water, waste, energy materials, the built environment, and clean transportation. And that’s going to be part of our focus in terms of our portfolio construction for the end of the decade. Next, we’ve decided that we would invest in sustainable solutions. Now first there’s a focus on energy. So therefore investing in hydrogen, making sure that green hydrogen becomes a reality in as close the time as possible. Joining with promising startups with established companies, to see what can be done in that respect, bringing down the carbon abatement cost curve for hydrogen as much as possible, contributing towards that as much as possible.

We want to look at carbon capture utilization storage solutions. That’s going to be important in reaching the 1.5 degree world that we hope, that we aspire to achieve. We’re looking at sustainable aviation fuels. As I mentioned, we own an airline, that could be critical in addressing carbon emissions in aviation. And we’re looking at the issues of nuclear energy as a form of clean energy and perhaps the emergence of nuclear fusion as a reality in the longer horizon. So these are some of the things that we’re doing.

At the same time, we believe that sustainable financing is important. It’s important, especially emerging markets because emerging markets very often the issue is affordability rather than the desire to transition into greener energy source. And we have to figure out ways in which capital can be brought to bear for the development construction of green infrastructure in order to allow for green energy to be made available, especially in my part of the world. And so we’re looking at initiatives in which that can be done. So effectively, most of these projects are [inaudible 00:16:15] bankable, the question’s how do we make them bankable? So can we be catalytic in that respect?

We also began to invest impact investments in about three years ago. Today, we have significant stakes in two firms that invest a total of almost one and a half billion dollars. And that’s important for us because as much as we are looking at the E part for sustainability, we have to also address the S part as well. So these are geared towards impact for communities as against impact for climate. The number of other initiatives we have, I can roll them off for you, but we decided that COVID-19 should not hold this back from initiating these projects we had in mind. And so we started to execute all through 2020 into 2021 and continuing, and this will be a multi-year journey and perhaps even, I would say a multi decade journey.

Ranjay Gulati:

Dilhan, do you think some of these initiatives, which really sound impressive? Are they coming at the expense of financial returns? Are you saying that look, this is good for business, good for the sustainability, and so we are willing to kind of take a knock over here on financial returns. You’ve got the carbon adjustment that you do, is that affecting your overall portfolio performance in terms of narrow financial metrics?

Dilhan Pillay:

So the question you have to ask yourself is this, are you looking only at short term financial returns or are you looking at long-term sustainable returns? Our mandate is focused on the latter. We are here to deliver long-term sustainable returns for our shareholder and in the context of being able to deliver those returns, we will also be able to allocate a significant part of it towards our strategies for giving back to the communities in which we operate through our foundation in particular. So if we are focused on long term sustainable returns, then what is the value of the company in a world that has to deal with climate change mitigation, adaptation, transition? That is a big question for us. So as we think about the future value of things we’re investing in today, then you have to think about a carbon adjusted financial performance of that company.

Especially if you are thinking about what would come into play to allow us to get into a 1.5 degree world, which includes things like policy frameworks to govern, which will have a knock on effect on business models and sectors in each country. And it will affect supply chains, just think about the carbon border adjustment mechanism that the EU is putting in place, but more importantly, it is important for us to think about it in the context of making sure that we are not invested, not just in standard assets, but standard business models, which eventually may not be viable because of these policy frameworks which why we will include carbon taxes.

So if carbon taxes is a reality, if that’s in your scenario, the carbon taxes is a reality, it will be part of global trade. For example, it will be part of the veracity and effectiveness of global supply chains. Then you have to factor in a cost of carbon to determine whether the allocation of capital by these companies in their growth takes into account, these sort of things, and get to the desired returns that you’re looking for to justify the investment you’re making today.

If you’re going to invest in airline today, well, if you invest in an airline a few months ago, you’re probably done well in terms of equity performance now since the world has opened up to air travel, and if you sell out the next two to three months, good for you, you probably had a pretty good return, probably outdoing the S&P 500. But if you are like Temasek, if you’re like us and you own 55% of airline, you can’t just sell it in a marketplace just because the performance have done well in the last three months, you have to think about your ownership of this entity for next seven or eight years and beyond.

And then the question, what would the value of this entity be in 2030 if in fact due to costlier regulations and other things that could come in place, carbon cost is a real cost of business. What would be the value of that entity at the end 2030? So yes, there is a premium being paid today in that journey, but are you going to be able to recover it on a relative basis in the future? Okay, now I don’t know what relative returns are going to be like in 2030, because that depends on where you see the [inaudible 00:20:38] of the market in a very different world that’s emerging, but on a relative basis, is your portfolio going to do better than the benchmarks that you hold yourself against?

Ranjay Gulati:

While having a clear long-term vision is critical, every business leader also has to think about short-term results. There’s no getting around it. I asked Dilhan what advice he has for purpose driven CEOs who are under pressure to deliver short term profits.

Dilhan Pillay:

It’s not easy, especially if you are the CEO of a public company, publicly listed company, right? Because the markets demand that you deliver short term performance, yet you are thinking about long term business models because that’s your job as a CEO. Job as CEO is to be a strategist and it’s just not about business model strategy. You got to think about workforce strategy, talent strategy, it’s strategy right, as a CEO. And then you have to make sure that strategy you have can be operationalized in a way in which the business can move forward and have the growth that is in line with its sector or can outdo its sector. And in particular, global growth that is set out there as a market for us to look at as investors. It’s not easy for CEOs to be able to juggle between that natural job of the CEO to be strategic and the other role of the CEO to deliver the shorter term performance.

But the important thing is to have in place the right set of shareholders are here to support you with respect to your strategy and your business model evolution. That requires very clear communication to the marketplace. That requires very clear communication to all your stakeholders where you are taking the company towards, why you’re taking it that direction, what is the long term value you expect to get from that journey? And that is very important because it’s not just shareholders who need to hear it. Your employees need to hear it. Your suppliers need to hear it because they are business partners, the communities in which you operate will want to hear it because you do have a need to contribute to your community. So it’s important to communicate that.

I believe that the first and foremost things to communicate things internally, so everybody understands where you’re headed. Remember I spoke about purpose and how that undergirds your strategy going forward, that’s the first thing. That’s very critical because you got to bring along your institution and then the second is to make sure you communicate in the marketplace. Everybody understands where you’re headed. We are always fixated on metrics. In a sense, short term results are very metrics oriented, and Ranjay, you being a business school professor, you know how the importance of metrics has evolved over decades where today, it becomes almost a religious mantra for many of us.

But metrics are important in some areas where you could truly measure it for the outcomes that you want to see. Okay, for example, if you look at ESG, the E can clearly be determined by reference to metrics. You set out what are metrics you want to hold yourself to, and you can report on those every year because it can be measured to a large extent. When you look at the S part, it’s not easy to have metrics for S but that’s where the narrative becomes important. And the G as well, the narrative is very critical. And then as you get a narrative out, you then over time will release metrics to show where you are in the context of achieving what you’ve set out to do in a narrative that you’ve shared with the broader marketplace. I think that’s important.

Ranjay Gulati:

Let’s talk about Temasek’s purpose. In the last year, you’ve taken the organization on a year long journey, and you talked about excavating your purpose as kind of culmination of this. Tell us a little more about this journey and why you decided it was important for you at Temasek to really undertake this journey.

Dilhan Pillay:

So for senior management at Temasek, we’ve been very clear what our purpose is. Our purpose actually is embodied within our charter which is on our website, that charter was put in place in 2012. It sets up the three roles that Temasek sets for itself: that of being an investor, that of being a forward looking institution, and that of being a steward. Our aim is to do well as investor, to do right as a forward looking institution, and to do good as a steward. I would say, first and foremost, you can’t do right and do good unless you’re doing well. Is there a distinction between say sustainability and returns? Well, the doing well, long term sustainable returns is critical in whatever we do in order to be able to do the right things.

And in order to be able to contribute to communities in which we operate. And in that context, we had expanded geographically where we have a significant presence in both the US and Europe. We’ve expanded our presence in China and in India. And we also expanded numbers in Singapore as well. And in order to make sure that we are a fully connected organization, it’s not just about being connected, physically connected in terms of technology and being able to connect across the organization using technology aids and Zoom and Teams, we have to be connected by something that holds us together. And that underpins the values, culture, and beliefs that we have in order to be an exceptional organization.

And so purpose became the way in which we could achieve that. And we wanted make sure people understood internally what Temasek stands for and why we see ourselves as going beyond that of investing and therefore we’re not like a private firm or typical investment house. We do more things than just that. We called a former member of our founding leadership in Singapore, we do everything today with tomorrow, clearly on our minds. And so when we think about what we do, not just in terms of investing, but as an institution, as a steward, we do that and why we do it? So every generation prospers and so that’s where we are today.

Ranjay Gulati:

I’ve been studying and writing for some time now about the need for companies to have a clear and deep purpose. Coming up with just the right words is hard, but putting those words into action, bringing the purpose statement alive, that’s something else altogether. I asked Dilhan Pillay how he and his colleagues have done that in such a geographically dispersed organization as Temasek. It’s based in Singapore, but has offices across the globe.

Dilhan Pillay:

So that’s the most interesting part of this journey right? Now that we’ve landed on a statement, how do we make it real for us? How do we make it authentic? And that’s what we’re now embarking on as a second phase. We’re actually putting in place right now, a framework for us to have this rolled out throughout the organization. In terms of everything that we do, every function that we have, every activity we undertake and try to ensure that when we undertake these things, people have in mind the reason why we’re doing it, the why. And of course you can’t, it’s not like in everything, okay, is this in line with our purpose? Otherwise, we won’t do it. No, that’s not it, but is your purpose at the end of the day going to be achieved by the things that you do. 

Each one of us individually, will it contribute towards the organization, achieving its purpose of every generation prosper over the longer term, will it help us achieve the objectives that are important that we’ve set out to achieve and for which a purpose explains the things that we’re doing. That’s not easy because it needs to be systematically approached, and we need to make sure that it is put out in a way where it’s authentic. I do not want to check the box kind of thing, because that is totally a mistake because when you do that and nobody then believes it, all the work that we’ve done is worth nothing. So that’s the challenge for us to make sure that when we roll it out, it comes to a very high level authenticity, but that’s going to make it stick.

Ranjay Gulati:

I’ve heard it said by some business experts that purpose is a waste of time because it is indeterminate, it’s unenforceable. And it embraces seemingly conflicting objectives causing more rather than less confusion in an organization. I asked Dilhan what he thinks about this.

Dilhan Pillay:

If you sit back there and you look at it from an intellectual perspective, you can come to that conclusion, okay? But remember, things are never forever. We set out this charter 10 years ago because we were really looking at our purpose and that’s how we came up with it in 2012. Through the purpose conversation, it still remains relevant. It doesn’t mean to stay the way it is. It’s been fine tuned, but it is still the relevant issue because it’s still the guiding light for us. In 2030, we have to go through another year long purpose long conversation because the world will have changed. And then you’ve got to figure out whether the importance of climate change takes a little bit more importance than what you put on it before and things like that.

And that’s going to also drive perhaps a reformation of purpose or perhaps a reformation of the framework that governs your purpose. I cannot put in place something today that’s going to bind future generations of Temasek leaders and Temasek employees because we’ve been put in leadership for our time in the history of our organization, my colleagues and I belong to a particular generation. We will have to pass the baton onto a newer generation. We want to make sure we pass on an institution that’s strong in everything that it does with very strong foundations so they can build on the foundations. We believe that the purpose we’ve set out which will undergird the strategies we have, will establish a stronger resident organization in 2030 for that new generation to take over and build upon what we’ve done to create an even better organization.

Ranjay Gulati:

Now, let me switch from Temasek to portfolio companies. You said earlier that business leaders today should really think about their purpose because it’ll make them more resilient in dealing with the tribulations and the ups and downs of today’s turbulent times. Do you advocate companies that find their own purpose, or are you advancing your own agenda saying, “Hey, look at my purpose. Your purpose should look like mine,” or are you saying, “Just have one. I don’t care what’s in it, just as long as you articulate a purpose for yourselves.”

Dilhan Pillay:

Each company has its own journey, far be it for us to advocate or dictate something to them. And like I said, if you are going to have a purpose, it has to be authentic. But it’s got to be relevant in context for the journey that you’ve decided to take on. And how you decide to bring your organization along with you to achieve those objectives is determined by you and your board and I’m not going to tell you that you should take our purpose and make it yours. That will be, I think a travesty. If you decide that the way to bring an organization along with you is to have that sense of purpose in your organization that undertake the journey that you need to undertake in the way that you have to put it in place. You don’t have to follow what we are doing.

Ranjay Gulati:

Can you talk about your own personal purpose and how have you come to the place you are in and what has been the arc of your personal purpose journey as you have evolved in your career?

Dilhan Pillay:

I think the first thing I would say is that to whom much is given, much is expected. I’ll start off with that. So as I’ve seen in my own career, as I’ve been given more and more responsibility, I felt the burden of responsibility. Not the elation of the office, but the burden of the responsibilities that I embody within that role that I have. And I recognize that the most important thing for me to do is to be principled in everything I do. I may not get it right, but I’ve got to be principled. I’ve got to be honest. I’ve got to have humility. I’ve got to acknowledge my weaknesses. I’ve got to make sure that I compliment my weaknesses with strength from other people.

Therefore, I need to know that I can’t do things on my own and have to bring people in with me in leadership and sometimes share the mentor of leadership with them, even if I’m the CEO and be willing to do so, because no one individual has a suite of skills to be able to deliver in its entirety what organization needs. I’m the leader of a team, you could say that I’m first amongst equals. And that means when I want to do something, I bring them along with me. Whatever success I’ve had is due to a team, not to me. There’s no way I could have achieved what I achieved without the contributions of many others, the unsung heroes perhaps who did not have the role that I have and therefore did not get the credit I got.

Ranjay Gulati:

Are there people in your life who really inspired you and shaped your purpose and really all crucible moments in your life that really have really brought you to the kind of person you are and leader you are today?

Dilhan Pillay:

So I’m a Christian so for me, Jesus Christ is the most important. But there’ve been people in my life who have been superb examples for me to follow, have been great mentors to me and their colleagues who have been sounding boards but more so fellow travelers on a journey who understand me, understand what I’m like, willing to accept me for who I am, and therefore able to help me overcome my weaknesses. And they’ve been great, not just supporters, but actually mentors in their own way. So there’ve been many, many people in my life have contributed to these things. And I can’t name just a few because I’ll be doing a disservice to the others. And I continue to have these people in my life today because your life is made up of many different journeys. I’m on a particular journey now. And each journey, you have the people who’ve traveled with you a long way, but you have the people who’ve joined you on this new journey and they continue to inspire me as I go forward.

Ranjay Gulati:

I’ve argued throughout the podcast that courage is an essential companion to purpose. With all of the challenges facing business leaders, it’s virtually impossible to achieve your purpose without a deep well of courage. To that, Dilhan Pillay adds another critical leadership trait, tenacity.

Dilhan Pillay:

The first time a curve ball is thrown at you, what are you going to do? So you’ve got to be tenacious in what you believe in, because that’s what leaders are supposed to be. We’re supposed to be tenacious. We’re supposed to have courage. We’re supposed to be comfortable with ambiguity, because if we’re not comfortable with ambiguity, the organization can’t get comfortable with ambiguity. And we have to recognize that the world is always changing and we have to ride with those changes. Leadership requires a lot of individual and no individual, like I said, has the full suite of capabilities required for the job at hand so you have to be willing to embrace the need to have a good core team around you, side by side with you to achieve what you want to achieve. That’s my goal.

Ranjay Gulati:

Dilhan Pillay is the CEO and Executive Director of Temasek Holdings in Singapore. An investment firm owned by the Government of Singapore with a portfolio of more than 250 billion. I think it’s fascinating that investors cared about purpose as well as making money. Granted, Temasek is a sovereign wealth fund that is enlightened. It looks carefully at investment returns, but also its role in society and the planet. The real question for the future is can Temasek achieve both?

You’ve been listening to Deep Purpose, a podcast about courage and commitment in turbulent times. You can go to my website for more of my conversations with leaders in the business world, navigating the 21st century business environment. You can also find out about my book titled Deep Purpose. That’s deeppurpose.net. This podcast is produced by Steven Smith with help from Lauren [inaudible 00:37:45], Melissa Duncan, Craig McDonald, and John Bath. The theme music is by Gadi Meister. I’m Ranjay Gulati.