LEAD|July 14, 2020
By: D.C. Alves M.Ed., Chief Leadership Officer, ExuLAB
"Purpose-driven" has been so widely overused and misused, that it is truly very unfortunate. "Oh yes, we are leading edge- purpose-driven- yes we have it in our mission statement and all employees know about it- it's in the policy!” I literally cringe when I hear this- I actually feel a crushing sensation. Because, so often, this beautiful concept becomes nothing more than a vapid statement that fills a staged requirement. It's not real.
It is bereft of meaning, of spirit, of life- of commitment. See, real purpose is a living and breathing extraordinary essence that you can feel. It's hard to put a word on what purpose is exactly. It's almost ethereal. How can you measure it? How do you show ROI data on it? Do you need to? These are serious questions to ponder and debate. However, when purpose is done right, what I do know for sure is that you can certainly feel it in every pore of the organization's programs, products and services. It's embedded in everything- because there is a relentless commitment to bringing the purpose forward in every action, every decision, every deliverable, every interaction- everything that the organization touches. Organizations that are truly purpose-driven with a respectful and noble calling to do something bigger than themselves and bring it to life with such aplomb are truly leading edge... and prosperous.
It takes a tremendous amount of dedication for leadership to not only be aligned with their purpose to undergird their business objectives but to stand by it in everything they do. If not enlivened and protected every day, purpose can simply fall and fade away. Its success requires a constant commitment and leadership accountability to recognize when purpose is in peril and how to bring it back front and center.
In crisis, purpose is the first thing to go or the first thing to go to.
Often, when times are good, the purpose is easier to execute. It's in times of crisis that you really see what an organization and leadership are really made of. Many organizations will default to short-term tactical triage and throw the purpose out the window. They go into fear mode. If the purpose were strong, authentic, benevolent, continuously nurtured and alive, your organization would have a go-to life-saving source to provide good equitable direction and course correction- even in the midst of turmoil. The purpose will guide the way and guide you out.
However, success is dependent on and is up to the full commitment of all leadership to be in absolute agreement to coalesce around the purpose- making decisions with the purpose as the ultimate litmus test for future action.
To rise to purpose or cower- this is a true test of leadership.