Many business experts argue there is one aspect of leadership that is more predictive of exceptional performance than any other factor. Understanding it and operating by it will transform any individual and every person and organization they influence.
What is that leadership silver bullet? Purpose.
So what about you?
If you were to ask yourself, “What’s my purpose?” what would your response be? Would the answer come easily, or would you struggle even to come up with a vague, generic statement?
And yet purpose makes all the difference. A study from Deliotte confirms that organizations that focus their energies beyond pure profit do better than those without a "culture of purpose."
So what is this “thing” we call purpose?
Purpose is not what we do or even how we do it. Purpose is the “Why” behind what we do.
If our “Why” is strong and compelling enough, all the other pieces will fall into place.
Unfortunately, as the above statistic shows, most of us are so focused on the “What” and the “How,” that we completely ignore the “Why.” And so we try to adjust tactics and methods. We bring in new talent, hire consultants, and so on and so forth, all of it making little if any tangible difference.
There are, however, extraordinary leaders and organizations that, early on, figured out that their “Why” mattered. Because of their strong purpose, they were been able to thrive and build extreme loyalty among their employees and their customers. Let’s look at two such organizations.
Southwest Airlines’ purpose is: “To connect people to what’s important in their lives though friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”
The airline states: “This purpose unifies and guides us. It’s the reason for our existence and a motivation to get up each morning.”
Southwest’s “Why” centers around people first and profits second. This mentality has been behind the airline’s long-term success, including:
Another organization with an incredible “Why” that goes beyond profit is Chick-fil-A.
The purpose behind everything Chick-fil-A does is: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” Now that’s something many can get behind and do!
Chick-fil-A enjoys one of the lowest employee turnovers in the fast food industry, and the operator turnover is only 5 percent. High employee and customer satisfaction speaks volumes and can be very much credited to the strong purpose lived out daily by both the corporate office, as well individual stores.
Chick-fil-A operates only six days a week, assuring that each employee gets Sundays off to be with their family and loved ones. Even so, the organization is growing and beating its competitors in revenue in spite of fewer sales days and half as many stores!
Jesus and His Purpose
The greatest leader role model of all time, Jesus, teaches us much about the importance of purpose. In Hebrews 12:2, we are told that He: “…for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus rejected fame, riches, and earthly applause, because He knew His purpose – the joy of reconciling us with the Father.
Everything He did during His three years on Earth was centered on this one single purpose. He never strayed.
Defining our purpose is not an easy task. It requires soul-searching, understanding one’s core life values and a desire for a destination that’s much more than pure profit or personal success.
So what is your Why? Why do you get up every morning? Why do you lead and influence others?
These questions are worth spending time exploring. Once we understand our Why, we will be much more effective with the What and the How.