In the many long years I spent in a corporate environment, initially as the leader managing a company and in the last seven years as a leadership coach, I noticed that when it comes to executive leadership, senior leaders and leadership teams are obsessed with strategy.
What actually is strategy? The simplest way I would describe it is ‘HOW we get to where we want to be’.
What I usually say to my clients when we get into a conversation on strategy is that the primary two questions they need to find answers to are:
- Why do we exist as an organisation? (our organisational purpose)
- What is our vision for the future?
In my previous article ‘Why Purpose is at the Core of Thriving?’ I explained that defining a meaningful purpose, beyond your small self, serves as a powerful generator of energy and creates inner order in times of chaos, uncertainty and hesitation.
In the world we currently live in, more than ever leaders need to create the opportunity for their leadership teams to crystalize their organisational purpose. If they do, such a purpose will create the feeling of shared meaning, which will draw upon the energy of the individuals, and the collective energy of the teams and the whole organisation to thrive on purpose.
One of my favorite cinematic lines is “Ruin is a gift, ruin is the road to transformation”. This line is from ‘Eat Pray Love’, the American biographical romantic drama starring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert, based on Gilbert’s 2006 memoir of the same name. Liz, reflecting on her life whilst walking alongside the ruins of Rome, was reminded that they beheld the gift of difficult times.
For many leaders and leadership teams, the current difficult times we find ourselves in is a huge opportunity for restarting and rethinking their business at its CORE. May I say purpose, not strategy, is at the core of each business. It’s why you exist as a company and the difference you are making in the world. The positive impact of their business is what will bring any company to sustainable thriving.
Leaders intuitively know deep down that a shift in organisational behavior is needed for their business to sustainably thrive, not just survive.
There is considerable research nowadays that backs up these words. In his wonderful book ‘People with Purpose: How Great Leaders Use Purpose to Build Thriving Organizations’, Kevin Murray confirms that when people find a sense of purpose, the benefits are limitless. He has interviewed more than 30 CEOs from a wide range of organisations, asking them how purpose and values have helped them in their leadership.
“These are leaders, who have used powerfully articulated purpose statements to bring companies back from the brink of collapse to rapidly growing businesses into global giants, or to enable their organisations to thrive over long periods of time.”
But what was it about having a purpose that had such a positive effect on individuals and teams who thrive?
Let’s see what neuroscience says about it. Dr Duncan Banks, a lifetime honorary member of the British Neuroscience Association and director of work-based learning at the Open University in Milton Keynes, claims that purpose is most often derived from a willingness to take part in activities for the greater good of the community.
“When you have a sense of purpose, especially a sense of common purpose, your brain chemistry changes. These chemicals change everything – from your perception of pain, your ability to handle difficult and challenging environments, and even your health and well-being”, says Dr Banks.
Executive Leaders clear sense of purpose aligned with organisational purpose is essential in order to inspire people in organisations. This is contagious, as inspired people are able to unfold their potential and thrive.
Citing Murray’s book “Purpose is an underutilized asset.”
What a wonderful way to view purpose – as an asset. If only more leaders could see that. Yet I trust they are starting to recognise its critical importance. This was evidenced by the launch of the EY Beacon Institute in 2015. Designed as a collaborative, catalytic force to transform business, it is made up of a diverse community of executives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Its own purpose is to transform business through the science and execution of purpose.
Research commissioned by the EY Beacon Institute among 500 global business leaders, and conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS), highlighted how global executives view the power of purpose to grow and transform their organizations. It also reinforced that purpose was a powerful but vastly underutilized asset.
As a result of this survey, most executives do believe purpose matters. To be precise, 89 percent of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction; 84 percent said it can affect an organization’s ability to transform, and 80 percent said it helps increase customer loyalty. However, only a minority of executives said their company currently runs in a purpose-driven way, even though companies with a strong sense of purpose are able to transform and innovate better.
It’s so true that organisations can sustainably thrive. Leaders just need to inspire new and deep conversations within their teams, on purpose. These new conversations will transform their views, bring insights and encourage ‘out of the ordinary’ decisions.
So forget about strategy and start with your purpose… and you are well on the road to Thrive on Purpose.
Ready for an extraordinary and deep conversation? Don’t hesitate to connect with me on www.thrivingleadership.net
Author: Elena Hinova
Photo by https://unsplash.com/@grstocks