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Leading Entrepreneurs on Adapting as the World Changes

Against the global backdrop of violent conflicts, withering financial conditions and increasingly extreme weather events, leaders of major institutions have needed to adapt and pursue meaning beyond creating profit, as top officers of four companies discussed Wednesday on the TIME100 Summit stage.

Tory Burch, Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Tory Burch, creator of the Tory Burch Foundation and member of this year’s TIME100, said when she considers leading her company for the past 20 years she “can’t believe she’s still standing.”

“Being an entrepreneur today is, as I mentioned, whiplash. Because with all of these things going on in the world, with all of the macro happening, you have to be super agile—you have to have conviction and a vision and not deviate from that—but also be able to move with the current,” Burch added.

Burch joined Thasunda Brown Duckett, President and CEO of financial retirement services company TIAA, and Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon (a supporting partner of the TIME100 Summit), for a conversation moderated by TIME CEO Jessica Sibley about leading with purpose.

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Each person spoke to the importance of leading “with purpose,” as Sibley put it, “not just leading for profit.” And with current challenges to the world’s security and financial wellbeing, that begins with providing for both staff and clients who need their services.

“We’re having more armed conflicts in the world than we’ve had since the second World War. We’re living in a society where we should understand each other better, we should talk to each other, we should learn better, we should be educated and understand there are differences. And we don’t need to fight and have wars for that,” said Vestberg. As a communications executive, he emphasized the need to spread connectivity and broadband equitably throughout society.

Vestberg continued that leaders especially have a “huge responsibility,” far beyond keeping shareholders content. “I have hundreds of thousands of employees basically coming in every day and working for me. My responsibility is that I have a positive influence on them, that they have a job, they have growth, they can support their families.”

Duckett, who is also on this year’s TIME100 list, cited the need for effective leadership to fulfill her company’s mission and create equal access to financial resources for retirement preparation.

“The reality is, 40 percent of all Americans will run out of money in retirement,” Duckett said. She added further statistics: Women retire with 30 percent less in their savings. Fifty-four percent of African Americans do not have enough money to retire. Sixty-four percent of Hispanic people do not have access to a workplace plan, and 41 percent of  people aged 25 to 35 are not saving or taking advantage of their workplace plan at all. “So we have to do better,” she added.

“We can ensure that everyone is auto-enrolled in their workplace plan, and not being someone like my father who worked over 40 years at a company and did not contribute 1 dollar to his 401k plan, because maybe he worked in the warehouse and scanned boxes, and the fancy material did not reach the man in the warehouse,” Duckett added. “It is a fight, and it’s one that I’m committed to.”

The TIME100 Summit convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.

Speakers for the 2024 TIME100 Summit include actor Elliot Page, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, WNBA champion A'ja Wilson, author Margaret Atwood, NYSE president Lynn Martin, comedian Alex Edelman, professor Yoshua Bengio, 68th Secretary of State John Kerry, actor Jane Fonda, and many more.

The Leading With Purpose panel was presented by Verizon.

Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.