“I would rather work with five people who really believe in what they are doing rather than five hundred who can’t see the point.” ~ Patrick Dixon
As leaders, we are constantly bombarded with how we should be, act or behave. Leadership trends are forever changing and it’s hard to keep track of how you should lead your people best. Often for natural leaders, leading with purpose is not about what you think it should be, it’s about who you can’t help being. For the others, here are ways to lead with purpose and what beneficial impact it has on your business.
Purpose is not what you do or how you do it. It’s WHY you do it.
To lead with purpose, you must know and live your WHY. This will become a foundational building block upon which you can create a successful, flourishing business. Why do you help customers? Why do you value passion and loyalty? Why do you work as a team?
Purpose is different from Mission. Think of Mission as moving targets that once you hit them, you create a bigger, bright one. Purpose is sustaining, an underlying driver that releases a burst of energy each time it’s thought about. It is infinite.
Purpose is the core of your business. The company’s 6-pack that needs constant working out and strengthening. This strengthening comes from daily experiences that are aligned with and driven by the company’s well-defined values. Establishing a well-defined company purpose ensures exceptional performance and psychologists argue greater employee well-being.
Like values, purpose statements aren’t something you should copy and paste from successful companies and think that’s it. To be impactful your purpose statement should clearly articulate the unique purpose your specific company has. This will ensure relevance and make it influential in guiding processes.
When strategy is pivoting in a rapidly changing world, purpose is the calmness your company and people need to direct them and ensure they don’t lose grasp of the big picture WHY they show up to work every day. Purpose being the centre of gravity for your company gives your people stability as there is something to help them navigate complexities.
Purpose gives your people scope to work out what is worth doing or not because it enforces the question of why and what impact it has. When considering purposeful leadership there is a strong sense of responsibility. As a leader with purpose, what are you responsible for and why?
For leaders or founders, nailing exactly why you are creating and managing this business is just the beginning of leading with purpose. Identifying and embodying this reason or value has a ripple effect on your leadership style and also the way all your employees will approach their work.
A WHY will give them meaning, creating a culture of empowerment and passion that will lure in the best talent, new customers or top-tier executives, while always innovating for the future.
Leading with purpose isn’t easy. But without a confident leader, an organisation will be directionless. Here are some useful steps in ensuring you are leading with purpose.
Set clear values and articulate your purpose so it’s understood by your people
Your WHY should become your company’s true north. Everyone should all be working towards the same future. But as a leader, it’s your job to embody these in all aspects of your work and act as a role model in every situation.
Establishing clear values and behaviours can help define how you approach challenges, create a flourishing team and continue to grow – with you at the helm. Sometimes defining your why could start with defining what is not your why. Elimination and filtering down can aid in clarifying what is unique about your company’s culture and offerings. You have to define and include this WHY at the very beginning.
To clearly lead with purpose the company’s WHY should be well accompanied with your personal purpose and intentions. Alignment here is essential for genuine and inspiring leadership. If you have a clear sense of who you are and why you do things, everything else seems to come naturally.
Shockingly, fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose and even fewer can distil their purpose into a concrete statement.
In terms of purpose alignment, employees should feel like they can achieve part of their individual purpose throughout their work. Company and individual purpose crossover activities using Venn diagrams are useful in illuminating the similarities of company purpose and individual purpose for your employees. This activity obviously involves a lot of trust as judgement can seep in. Ensure your people feel safe and comfortable enough sharing their individual purpose within small groups and facilitate this wisely.
But what happens if employees’ individual purpose and company purpose do not line up or crossover at all? Is there an opportunity for company purpose adaptation or is this the wrong hiring?
Talk about purpose in hiring interviews, discuss whether your employees think they are fulfilling it in their reviews, and self-reflect on how you display it around the office. It will help to create an environment that inspires others. It is your job to instil this in your team by living it every day. Employees being able to justify company purpose is a big factor in ensuring your people are the right fit for your business.
Envision the impact of your purpose and make it safe to fail
“Purpose directs energy, and purpose makes energy.” Charles Henry Parkhurst
Leading with purpose also includes taking your words and vision and turning them into an impactful reality. Stumbling is a necessity of growth and learning. A leader with purpose will understand the benefits of mistakes and how they can be utilised to build a strong culture and a team with a growth mindset. But also know when to reward hard work.
Having a clear plan for translating purpose into action helps articulate and visualise the impact company purpose will have. Ask yourself and the team, what impact is our purpose currently having? With our purpose, what are the potential impacts we could strive towards? This will also ensure employee motivation as they have a more direction driven focus rather than just a two-dimensional purpose statement.
As leaders, finding the courage to live out this purpose is essential in effective execution. Having the bravery to not only drive yourself with this purpose but also lead your entire team can make the difference between a good leader and a great leader.
Your culture and work environment will include aspects of your WHY but it needs to go further than that. As the leader, it is your duty to listen, learn and evolve your culture as your business grows. Be open about times you stumbled or ask how your team would like to be recognised. Collaboration and open communication will give you purpose to lead.
Over time through experience and company development there may be a need to reevaluate company purpose when necessary. In a world of rapid change, purpose is the one consistent thing we can find comfort in. But what if the purpose is just simply now outdated or not aligned with where the company has advanced to? Having the permission to be adaptive and dynamic in this area is key to ensuring you’re leading with meaningful purpose.
Lastly, Tell your story
As a leader, your story can be your biggest talent attractor. If you’re a small business starting out with no big budgets, then this is for you. Share your hardships, sacrifices and victories, use your journey to inspire others and bring onboard people you want to surround yourself with.
A story that inspires or that people can resonate with can become your own marketing tool, which filters into every other aspect of your business. Storytelling may not come naturally but practice makes perfect.
If your story is worth listening to or believing in, you’re already on the road to becoming a leader with purpose.
In a fast-paced ever-changing landscape, businesses that know WHY are game-changers. A purpose not only influences your team and internal culture, it can attract new customers or new candidates. Purpose is a competitive advantage.
Your company purpose should be something that is big and is known by your entire business. It should be a vision for a future that all your employees are inspired towards and is the driver of future business decisions. A purpose shouldn’t be about money or winning, it’s bigger than that, something that will create a lasting impact.
A leader that inspires, instils and lives this purpose will guide and grow their business to new levels. In fact, a leader with purpose could become the WHY for others. So what are you waiting for?
If your purpose was a song, let us help you sing it loud enough so the rest of the world can dance to it.
At The Culture Equation, we’ve helped several businesses transform their culture, teams and leadership and it all starts with defining purpose.
If you’d like a 30-min Free No-Obligation Consultation, we’d love to have a chat with you.
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