Lessons of leadership : Purpose
Lessons of leadership : Purpose
“Purpose is the reason for which something is done, created or for which something exists.”
Also, “Purpose or intention is a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future”*
Both definitions are very accurate, the first one relates to the reason of existing while the second one defines a longer-term vision.
Living a life of many choices whilst finding a purpose for everything we do might look impossible.
Well, I cannot imagine life without purpose, a day without purpose or a company operating effectively without purpose.
Personally, I work in IT, what I love the most about what I do is the fact that I contribute to making technology alive. Technology is used in many areas: helping researchers make medical breakthroughs, helping people work or study by making resources available to them whenever and wherever needed, allowing doctors to keep track of their patients and predict potential life changing genetic conditions… Helping others achieve their needs and dreams is extremely heart-warming and these are great examples of purpose. Goals keep changing, purpose is a constant.
First, it is important to make a clear distinction between a company’s mission and its purpose: A company’ mission is what drives the business forward via a vision that aligns its employees with it. A company’s purpose is a longer-term objective, a guide to performance and a unique star that enlightens the road.
In a recent HBR article, I was amazed by how some companies lasted or even outperformed their peers by reviewing their business models, products, and services. Moreover, what mostly worked for almost all of them is that they are now purpose-driven.**
Companies have financial objectives and targets, with a workforce that enables their success through the delivery of products and services by individuals, as well as a competitive position in the market. However, the real strategic point that can make a company successful and perform efficiently is when it works towards a purpose, and of course, a purpose that enhances the values of its business: i.e. ecology, social justice, pooled economy…
Purpose makes companies move to the next level: working on customers well-being, sustainable energy development or people safety, changes the company’s brand perception from a product seller into a company that also intends to resolve concerns related to the environment or to humanity which goes beyond products and or services. Purpose makes a company care about the future and not only about its current activity. I call it “changing the current life into an ‘avant-gardist’ life”.
History is full of stories of people who had visions, but also a fixed purpose. They sometimes failed, tried again and eventually got what they aimed for driven by purpose as their engine.
I cannot talk about purpose without talking about Steve Jobs.
Purpose is: ‘love’, ‘intuition’, ‘heart’ and ‘inner voice. This is how Steve Jobs described it in his speech given at Stanford in 2005:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Do not be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Do not let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice”
“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”
Surprisingly enough, Steve Jobs was rejected by Apple, and that was a great hit, he also built his own company, which was bought by Apple, it did not prevent him to become years later “the Apple Guy”.
The main point of Steve’s philosophy was that is important to do some introspection. Finding out what are the things that you do today that are making your life meaningful and also what are the things that you love doing that are in the meantime helping others, resolving their issues or make their lives easier and meaningful. Work is taking a big part of our life, so doing it for a purpose might enlighten our days and aspirations.
Another example is Disney. The company’s culture involves making employees aware about corporate purpose, as said before, instead of working mechanically or for a pay check, they do their daily tasks for making others happy, regardless of their job’s description.
My last and favourite leader led by purpose, is Elon Musk, the Tesla, SpaceX (also the boring company, Neuralink and cofounder of OpenAI), he is also ranked in the 25th most powerful people***
Elon Musk founded his companies with the following objectives:
- Resolve traffic limitations with The boring company which build tunnels in Los Angeles
- Resolve energy issue by electric cars with his company TESLA
- Explore brain’s capabilities with Neuralink
- Pushing human power to the next level with artificial intelligence with Open AI
- And the most meaningful one is discovering new world due to planet earth limitations with SpaceX
Those ideas are powerful. Each of Elon Musk’s companies has a purpose that is environmental or human related. Elon Musk is very worried about the current world situation; he draws a world in his mind and counts on his teams to make it possible.
“Do you want to take advantage of your life for you and to help others: If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you will most certainly be right.” Steve Jobs
Do you have a purpose?
Do you have a dream? These questions are life changing and need to be self-asked frequently. As we evolve our dreams change, but our purpose remains the same.
If you cannot find your mere purpose, you can use the 5 ways method:
- Why I am doing what I do today? ok but why, yes but why, ok but why, yes but why?
This method is helpful to clear your mind about what your purpose is and if you still can’t find it, you need to broaden your scope of what you do on daily basis and focus on including what you love doing the most in life. For example, I enjoy writing to make people think and feel.
True leaders and decision makers should really take time to think deeply about a specific purpose for themselves, and purpose of the company they work for.
Some might think that their purpose is the same as others. This is not true because each one of us has his/her own perception, thoughts and beliefs, and past experiences leading to his/her own purpose based on personal perceptions.
Introspection will lead you to find your true values, things you strongly believe in, things that we see in others (courage, kindness, helpfulness…) and we appreciate them as we have them as well but buried deep inside. It is time to release those beautiful purpose factors and gravitate our life around a defined purpose. It is within each one of us, these values, the things that we strongly believe in, see in others and appreciate.
Consultante confirmée EVA Group