Making Company Culture a Strategic Priority — Leslie Motter

Inspiration And Insights
4 min readNov 14, 2023
Image by 8photo on Freepik

Studies show that organizations with clearly defined corporate cultures, diverse workforces and inclusive environments consistently outperform their peers. Yet a recent study by the Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of respondents do not think that their organizations are representative. Another study shows that only 36% of those surveyed feel a sense of belonging and empowerment in their workplaces. Finally, job hunters commonly cite workplace culture as the primary motivator for seeking a new job. For organizations to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, they must prioritize culture right from the start.

We are in conversation with Leslie Motter, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish. Leslie has decades of experience leading both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as a passion for continuous improvement and building meaningful connections along the way.

Leslie, as the new CEO of Make-A-Wish, one of your first tasks was to find a suitable replacement for yourself as COO. In dividing your former responsibilities, you created a new C-Suite role focused on strategy. Would you explain why this is a crucial part of your reorganization plans?

“I want to ensure that we are fully integrating inclusion throughout our organization’s culture, seamlessly aligning these values with all our endeavors, rather than having separate DEI efforts. It is crucial that our commitment begins at the C-Suite level and permeates throughout the entire organization.

As we develop our three-year strategic plan, we are incorporating new initiatives into all aspects of our operations. One such example is our comprehensive review of metrics, both internal and external, to ensure that we are effectively serving various populations. This is critical as we seek to reach more eligible children.”

How are you working with your team to determine the areas on which to focus?

“First, I want to make sure that the right people are at the table when we are having these conversations. Second, I want us all to think about our organization’s culture in a holistic manner. That thinking needs to encompass the demographics of the board, of our employees and, equally important, of the community we are serving. By bringing culture, diversity and strategy together, we can ensure that we are proactively considering where we want to be in the future.”

Can you elaborate on your efforts to harness the power of the external Make-A-Wish brand and align it with the internal company culture? What is your ultimate goal?

“I often say that the power of the Make-A-Wish brand is phenomenal. We are providing hope, strength and joy to families when they need it the most, and one of my top priorities as CEO is to bring that same sense of community inside the organization.

The challenge of internalizing the brand is that culture is an intangible component. You can’t always see or hear or touch it, and there are so many other demands on an organization. That is why many people don’t consider culture to be as important as the more tangible elements of a business, such as financials.

Imagine what will happen when we successfully harness the power of Make-A-Wish’s external brand internally. People will feel proud of not just the brand, but of how they are treated every day and how they treat others. That’s good not just for the employees of Make-A-Wish, but also for the people we work with and serve. The potential is extraordinary.”

Leslie, thank you for sharing your unique perspective on this critical issue.

Leslie Motter is a purpose-driven and collaborative leader with a proven track record delivering results for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Leslie is recognized for her 20-plus years as a leader in the financial services industry, as well as her deep experience leading strategy development, scaling businesses, and creating strong, sustainable goals.

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