It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows Roy Spence that he wears a jewelry symbol of The Golden Rule—from each major religion—on a chain around his neck. About a dozen, in fact. Close to his heart. In a world where we’ve seen so many business leaders who lack that kind of spirituality, citing the Wall Street greed that has challenged our economy, Spence rises above with his own spiritual approach to life.
“Every religion of the world has a version of The Golden Rule,” Spence shares. “So, a purpose-based leader practices the golden rule. Treat people as you would like to be treated. We ought to have golden rule summits around the world,” This sincere sensibility is the reason why his new book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For (written with Haley Rushing), is sure to catch the attention of the business world. And not a moment too soon.
I recently caught up with Spence in his office at GSD&M advertising, a monument to modern advertising success. When walking into these headquarters, Idea City, you are grounded with the words of the agency’s core values that are emblazoned into the floor of the foyer. A visitor is actually inclined to step around them as not to infringe upon them. This company that Spence founded with fellow dynamos Judy Trabulsi, Steve Gurasich, and Tim McClure embodies the success they have been able to create for their clients, with a sense of true purpose.
Southwest Airlines: Democratize the skies and give people the freedom to fly. Wal-Mart: Save people money so they can live better. BMW: Enable people to experience the joy of driving. American Legacy Foundation: To build a world where tobacco is rejected and anyone can quit. It is a laundry list of major brands that have entered popular vernacular, not only because of their purpose-driven businesses, but also with how GSD&M has presented those purposes to the world.
“It’s like sharing a message,” Spence says. “I have been struck for all my life basically because I was blessed with great parents, but of this, this war that individuals go through…I want to live a life of purpose.” And he walks the walk and talks the talk. In fact, as a young boy growing up in Brownwood, he walked his sister to school every day—pushing her wheelchair because she was stricken with Spineabiffida. He goes on to say, “I felt disabled because of it, because I was so attached to her. But it helped me learn great empathy for the world around me.”