The Power of Purpose

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COMMITMENT is grounded in a deep, intense, and clear purpose.

Many people say they know their purpose in life.  But when it is spelled out, it often is someone else’s purpose they’ve adopted — consciously or unconsciously — along the way.

Many organizations assume they have a mission or purpose. “See, it’s over there, hanging on the wall.” 

If you want to know if someone is in touch with their purpose or the organization’s purpose, ask a simple question:

“Tell me one action or decision you made today that was based on your purpose or the company’s mission statement?” 

Awkward moment usually follows.

Some thoughts from Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006:

  • Purpose is preparation for doing what is right and what is worthwhile.
  • Purpose creates a sense of obligation. But this obligation is not a weight or a drag in any way — it’s a way of knowing what you can and can’t do.
  • Because Purpose provides certainty, it also provides confidence. All of that comes together to contribute to a firm’s competitive advantage. “Do the right thing and do well” — a new way of saying “Do well by doing good.” Interpretation is up to the individual. And indeed, people define “goodness” in personal ways.
  • “Purpose” elicits the same subjective response… A Purpose’s effectiveness depends both on its relevance to the problems that leaders face today, and on its connection to the shared culture of humanity. It must draw on philosophical ideas that have stood the test of time. Not all ideas are born equal.
  • Purpose can fuel how we answer the phone, how late we stay at the office, how we answer a coworker’s question or a customer’s request, how we hire, how we fire, and how we grow.

Be a High-Trust Leader: develop a very clear, very deep, very intense purpose.

  1. Build commitment by communicating a noble purpose that you truly believe and shared by the rest of the team.  This takes time and effort, but worth it in spades. It is the fire that energizes the team and the key to resilience when a storm hits.
  2. Keep it alive every day through your actions and your example.  The team won’t believe in it any more than you do.
  3. Make it a key consideration in every decision, “Is this decision consistent with our purpose and values?”  In military parlance, purpose is your team’s strategic center of gravity.

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