Get To The Point: Why Leading With Purpose Matters
Most of us would agree that there needs to be a larger point to our work, a big picture as to why we do what we do.
New research and a new book underline and reiterate that the shift towards a need for authentic leadership contributes to the bottom line and company satisfaction, as well as to personal well-being.
Leadership with purpose is one of the founding principals of Take The Lead, as created by co-founder and president Gloria Feldt.
A new study of more than 250 managers and C-suite leaders by Quartz Insights and WEfinds that, “Purpose affects every aspect of business. It impacts an organization’s communication strategy, how it conducts its core business, and how it engages and retains employees.” More than 73 percent in the study report that purpose leadership is as important as financial outcomes and affects the bottom line.
Feldt is featured in the report, “Leading With Purpose In An Age Defined By It.”
The report states, “In the face of these issues, brands shouldn’t shy away from taking a stance—this is what leading with purpose is all about. Interviewee Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President of Take The Lead, framed this idea succinctly, ‘You will lose some people by expressing your point of view. That’s fine. You would have lost them anyway. People follow people who have a point of view.’”
Feldt adds, “To me the alignment and the integrity between purpose and values stated, and purpose and values acted on, is probably the main thing. It will always come home to roost if your company is not living those values.”
The study reports that the most critical issues purpose leadership needs to address in 2019 are gender equality, immigration reform, affordable education, digital privacy, environment and politics. According to the report, “We are, perhaps, witnessing only the beginning of a major paradigm shift that seeks flatter, more egalitarian structures both inside and outside the workplace.”
Why does it matter?
As a tool of engagement for team members, 37 percent of all participants say they value authenticity in purpose leaders, while 89 percent report that their organization is a model for purpose leadership and agree that authenticity is at the core of purpose leadership, the study shows. More than half, or 54 percent of respondents agree that purpose can start anywhere; it does not need to trickle down from the top of an organization.
In the report, Jessica Chen, Senior Director of Public and Professional Programs at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, says, “Purpose is thinking not just about output, but also about exchange. How do you engage with a community? This kind of leadership is more civic-minded now than it has been in the past.”
Others agree, “There’s a rising trend in the world that we need to do good. But it’s more than that,” Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of SAP Next-Gen, tells Forbes.
Dr. Nicholas Pearce, founder and chief executive officer of The Vocati Group, assistant pastor at Apostolic Church of God and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, writes in his new book, The Purpose Path: A Guide to Pursuing Your Authentic Life’s Work: “Living a life of significance and purpose requires vocational courage, not just smart career planning. Each of us is more than our job or chosen profession, and we don’t have to wait until we reach a certain age to wrestle with the pursuit of our respective vocations.”
Other recent research backs up the premise of social responsibility as crucial in leadership.
The newly released Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey, which polled nearly 10,000 respondents in 119 countries, shows that role of the social enterprise – or the notion of social impact of a brand, organization and its leadership – is important to employees.
The top design principle of social enterprise is purpose and meaning, defined as “giving organizations and individuals a sense of purpose at work; moving beyond profit to a focus on doing good things for individuals, customers, and society,” according to the report.
According to Forbes, Erica Williams Simon, founder of Sage House, with her podcast The Call, says, “Remember that purpose isn’t a destination but a daily expression of your highest self. You don’t have to wait to ‘reach your purpose.’ You can do things exactly where you are right now – volunteer, pursue a hobby, raise children – that help you use your gifts, talents, and passions fully.”
Alain Sylvain, founder and CEO of Sylvain Labs, agrees. She writes in Quartz, “It’s crucial to be consistent; if you’re talking purpose, you better be living it, too. And it’s crucial for employees, consumers, and even investors to hold companies accountable for that.”
Purpose needs to be authentic and not just empty phrasing. As a leader and an individual, the path to purpose begins with interrogation and aligning with the larger goals and mission of the organization.
According to GirlTalk HQ, Amanda Stewart, Founding Partner & VP of Valeo Groupe, U.S., the parent company of EPOCH Clemson, says, “I found purpose in my career by first identifying what was most meaningful and motivating to me. I feel fortunate in the position I am in, because my purpose aligns with part of our company’s mantra which is ‘helping others.’”
That sentiment aligns with the identified goals by WE and Quartz that list the first step as defining your purpose: “Identify the core strengths of your original business mission. Draw a brand purpose from this foundation.”
Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools as created by Feldt champion these tactics. Power Tool # 1, “Know your History,” allows you to create the future of your choice through self-examination of priorities and purpose.
Power Tool # 2, “Define Your Own Terms—First, Before Anyone Else Does,” allows you to name the purpose. Feldt writes, “Whoever sets the terms of the debate usually wins. By redefining power not as ‘Power-Over,’ but as ‘Power-To’ we shift from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention to make things better for everyone. ‘Power-To’ is leadership.”
This kind of effective leadership also produces positive outcomes.
According to the WE report, “If the current social and political landscapes tell us anything, it is that the time is ripe to make business strategy a purpose.”
Karen Southall Watts, coach, author and speaker, tells GirlTalk HQ, “Purpose lies at that wonderful intersection between your talents and your values. Most of the time we don’t just find purpose in our work. We have to uncover it, work for it and create it. Even when you’re lucky enough to work for an organization that’s driven by a mission you believe in, you still need to find your individual, special contribution.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com