Purposeful leadership is about acknowledging that it is bigger than one person but that it begins with one person. As a leader, it is about having a strong moral compass and vision that is committed to your people, all of them – your employees, your stakeholders, your customers, and your community. It is about taking everyone on the journey with you, being brave, living your purpose, being authentic and you cannot do it alone.
What is it and why does it matter?
The business world is changing. This past two years we have learned many lessons, some of which are the importance of others, of connection and of self-awareness. A successful business is no longer defined as one with the greatest profit, gained at all costs and with a short-term view, to sustain success a business needs to be agile, resilient and it is one with a strong purpose. And, in order to drive this strategy, it needs a leader with a strong ‘moral self, a vision for their team, and takes an ethical approach to leadership marked by a commitment to stakeholders’.
A clearly defined purpose is the foundation for all that you do. It is why your business exists, what gap you are here to fill and defines who you want to be. It describes what makes your business stand out from the crowd as well as what you plan to do. It is an organisation’s ‘why’, its reason to exist and it provides the context for all strategies and decision-making, unifying your people.
The purpose of my company is to be businesses’ second home, to be the leading and most trusted partner to small and large businesses for delivering brilliant customer interactions. Google’s is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. A purpose is not about a product or a sales goal, it is about how the organisation sees itself and its work and it is unique to you.
What is more, and what is its ultimate power, is that statements or visions of purpose allow every person within an organisation to understand how what they do on a daily basis contributes to the overall goals and reason for being. The purpoe should be at the heart of any organisation’s strategy, culture and identity.
This, in turn (and there is ample research out there to support this) allows purpose-driven organisations to attract and retain the best talent, to be more innovative and agile in their decisions and to be more trustworthy and more trusted, leading to better business outcomes.
Even in knowing and accepting the above, there sometimes remains a gap between what leaders believe their purpose to be and what the behaviours of the organisation actually suggest. So, in order to get to the bottom of this, it is time for some hard, honest truths and reflection.
How to find your purpose
No one can tell you your why. You have to determine it for yourself. Then you can attach purpose to your organisation. There are no hard and fast criteria of questions to ask or boxes to tick but here are my suggestions to start you on your journey.
What are the core values of your organisation – the top three things you care about the most and that are non-negotiable? And what’s the benefit of that?
And your greatest strengths – the things that you are naturally good at and can use to impact others? Furthermore, which of these strengths produce the greatest value?
How do you want to be remembered? Think the unthinkable and imagine your organisation went out of business, it had to close down, what would you want to be known for, what would your legacy be?
Practice what you preach
What will set organisations apart is if they walk the walk, not just talk the talk, demonstrating authenticity in all that they do. Stakeholders are more switched on than ever with facts and figures at the touch of a button, so it is more important than ever to be accountable and transparent. Be who you say you are, do what you say you will do and hold your hands up when you need to. There is no place to hide, and you shouldn’t need to.
If you lead with authenticity and with a clear purpose, you will gain trust from all stakeholders – employees, shareholders, partners, customers and the wider community – and doing so opens up trusted partnerships leading to increased revenue and growth.
In placing purpose at the heart of your decisions you are also putting people at the core, investing in the most powerful asset any organisation will have. Every organisation begins with a clear purpose, but it needs to evolve to remain relevant, it needs to be nurtured and revisited in line with the growth of the organisation and people, so that the two are inextricably linked.
Supporting your purpose.
Your purpose is your inspiration, your compass, but your culture is the map that will take you where you want to go. A combination of values and habits that is lived throughout the organisation every single day, our culture guides us on how we will achieve our purpose, how we make decisions, they make your purpose happen.
When you combine purposeful values with purposeful habits the result is a purposeful culture and purpose-driven organisation. For example, communication is a critical value and habit of a purposeful culture. Leaders need to talk about values and purpose, be transparent and open, valuing all people as partners in the business. If people believe in it, they will believe in the organisation and invest themselves. A strong, purposeful culture links heads, hearts and minds.
Purposeful leadership is all about creating connections. It is about acknowledging that it is bigger than one person but that it begins with one person. As a leader, it is about having a strong moral compass and vision that is committed to your people, all of them – your employees, your stakeholders, your customers, and your community. It is about taking everyone on the journey with you, being brave, living your purpose, being authentic and you cannot do it alone.
In a constantly changing world, where consumers are over-faced with options, leading with purpose and authenticity creates trust and the potential to create more resilient relationships with all involved. More importantly, leading with purpose does not negate profit. When driven by a clear purpose, organisations can deliver far greater profitability than first imagined, along with increased productivity, growth and employee engagement. It is no mistake that some of the greatest (to date) purpose-driven organisations also produce some of the largest profits.