Companies that are successful tend to share one common trait: They pursue a specific purpose, in addition to pursuing profits. For example, Whole Foods’ mission statement is, “Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people — customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general — and the planet.” Organizations look for employees, particularly leaders, to buy into their purpose. These are the companies that have impact and build strong and enduring brands.
While this is important for the organization, the most impactful purpose that a leader must buy into is their own. Great leaders must live in, and on, purpose so that they can not only be at their best, but also pull the best out of others. A leader outside of purpose is not so easily able to inspire others, particularly during the challenges and tumultuous times that teams and organizations will inevitably experience. But a leader working in their purpose, maximizing their gifts and talents, and leveraging those of others can accomplish great things and inspire others to join them in the fight.
An article in the Harvard Business Review found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose, and as a result, they limit their aspirations and often fail to achieve their most ambitious professional and personal goals.
There’s another point to be made about the importance of modeling what purpose-driven work looks like. The more transparent and open a leader is about their purpose and how they leverage it at work, the more employees will see that model and then try to find their own purpose. Good leaders let their staff understand their personal journey, what they did in order to find their gift or “sweet spot.” They don’t keep that “secret sauce” to themselves. They find a way to coach, instruct, and give safe space for their team to take that same journey for themselves, no matter where it takes them. Why would they do this? Because everyone wins when those on the team are walking in their gift (in purpose).
For sure, there’s a risk here. If you, as a leader, for example, create the safe space for your managers to “find their purpose” there is a risk that they realize that the work or role that they’re doing is not what they really want to do, or is not aligned with their heart, strengths or “purpose.” They may then choose to leave their role. However, if you support them in that decision, encouraging them to find that purpose they so eagerly seek, it’s likely that they will leave with a positive mindset about you and your organization, encouraging others to consider your company as a place of work, and keeping your external reputation intact. It’s also an opportunity to fill that role with someone that is more aligned with your organization’s purpose, and better equipped to be even more productive than his or her predecessor. When people are in purpose, it’s an opportunity to lift all boats.
What is your purpose? What are your personal values and how do you prefer to operate in the world? What are the things that you are naturally good at and enjoy doing? What gets you excited or what do you care deeply about? Answers to questions like these, and/or taking the time to use the myriad of resources available to you on the internet can start you on your way to discovering your personal purpose. You may also consider hiring a professional executive coach who will be a thought partner, as well as helping you to align your purpose with your profession.