Throughout history, we have remembered leaders who are considered exceptional. Many of these individuals are notable because of specific characteristics and traits that made them stand out – perhaps they were gifted orators or incredibly skilled organizers. These people are celebrated because of the significant contributions they made to their families, communities, and countries. These men and women are purpose-driven leaders.
Many people look to leaders who have impacted history – Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, Malala Yousafzai – as role models, and aspire to emulate them. To many, these leaders are successful not because of their wealth, but because of the purpose with which they live or lived their lives.
As humans, we desire to live with purpose. This is truer now more than ever. Millennials have been dubbed the purpose-driven generation. More than 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values and over 90% of millennials want to use their skills for good. Millennials want to find purpose in their work and are willing to make sacrifices in order to find a job they consider meaningful.
While we might understand why it’s important to provide purpose at work, there is still a larger question we need to answer: how do we create purpose at work? This is where purpose-driven leaders come in.
Purpose-driven leaders are individuals who are able to inspire and motivate others through their deep belief in a cause. They are able to see their day-to-day activities as more than just meaningless tasks and see their role as critical to an organization, team, or community. They are self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and motivational people who are able to deeply understand their peers and bring out the best in those around them.
For example, Patagonia’s mission is, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Patagonia is able to inspire purpose in its employees by directly communicating the role each person has in working towards this bigger purpose. A purpose-driven leader helps people find meaning in their own work by defining the ‘Why?’ of what they are doing.
Creating a ‘Why?’ for your employees is not easy, but it is crucial to the long-term satisfaction and success of your workforce. Employees who believe the work they do is important are more likely to be engaged and productive team members. While competent managers may be able to get the job done, purpose-driven leaders are able to motivate and inspire their employees on a deeper level. These individuals are most likely to exhibit the following qualities and behavior:
Defining the ‘Why?’ at work
Purpose-driven leaders see their daily work as absolutely critical to the mission of their company. They are not only able to see how they contribute to the bigger picture, but they are able to define why their company is doing the work they are doing. Their capacity to articulate their purpose is essential to the success of their team. Before they can motivate people to believe in a cause, purpose-driven leaders must be able to define the meaning behind the work for themselves.
For example, a purpose-driven leader at an insurance company might be able to understand how insurance is able to give people incredible peace of mind during a crisis because they know their family and home are protected. The work that insurance companies do can be life-changing when families are in distress.
Other purpose-driven leaders might be able to define purpose at work by getting their teams involved in their local or global community through volunteer work and other philanthropic efforts. Keeping teams connected to their communities can help showcase purpose at work by demonstrating that leadership skills developed in the workplace are useful and critical to the community at large.
Accountants at a large, corporate accounting firm might be able to find their ‘why?’ by volunteering to help low-income families in their city do their taxes. The skills and talents they are developing and using at work are much-needed to help the world.
Purpose-driven leaders are able to put the work they are doing in a larger context – one that helps team members understand why they are doing the work they are doing every day.
Rallying your team behind a cause
Purpose-driven leaders are able to do more than define purpose at work. They are able to connect with their team and motivate them to care about a cause, too. Purpose-driven leaders care about their team as people. They want them to find purpose and fulfillment in their work. They understand how to bring out the best in their team and help them find the work that plays to their strengths. While a good manager might be able to do this, a purpose-driven leader is able to take it a step further.
These types of leaders are able to make their employees feel valued and make them feel like they are critical to the success of the cause at work. This ability really taps into humans’ desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone wants that feeling, and purpose-driven leaders are able to make their employees feel like their work makes them a part of a movement.
Rallying your team behind a cause starts with your investment in your team as people and professionals. Engaging your employees through personal and professional development opportunities communicates to your team that they are a critical asset to your company. Their success and development as employees equate to progress and growth as a company.
Purpose-driven leaders constantly invest in their teams because they deeply believe that they couldn’t work to accomplish their goals and mission without the success of every single employee. Employees who feel like they are being cared for are more likely to care about the things the company cares about.
Understanding that purpose leads to performance
The last thing that defines a purpose-driven leader is their commitment to excellence. Purpose-driven leaders understand that defining purpose and rallying their team behind a cause are not some fluffy, touchy-feely attempts to make everyone feel good. They understand that these things are critical to employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity. Employees who know their ‘why?’ and who deeply believe in the work they are doing are more likely to be engaged team members.
Leaders who inspire purpose-driven work in their teams are more successful in motivating their employees to do good work than managers that are unattached to the mission of their company. In this sense, creating purpose is crucial to driving performance.