Harvard Business Review defines purpose as:
“An aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization and its partners and stakeholders and provides benefit to local and global society.”
What this means to me is that the greatest opportunity any leader has is to establish a clear and accessible, inclusive vision for the future that makes tomorrow better than today. A vision that people can trust in and rally around. It is reasonable to expect a respected and visionary leader to assess the state of affairs, harness insights from all constituencies, inside and outside of the organization, to define a purposeful vision and narrative that engages all stakeholders. But what path is the most authentic for your brand to take?
Our collaborative purpose-driven economy is impacting businesses of all kinds, as people increasingly want to do business with, and work for, brands that contribute as much to the world at large as they do the bottom line. We know that consumers are no longer engaging with communications focused on products and services – the what you do, but rather, they are looking for aspirational stories that give them a reason to believe – the why. I believe that future leaders will create strategies grounded in purpose and inclusion that bridge the gap between the private and public sectors.
‘Purpose’ is a big word and is somewhat unapproachable to many leaders, but it needn’t be. It’s important to note that leading with purpose is not a one size fits all approach. It can take many shapes but must be authentic to your brand. To illustrate this, I thought I’d share three examples of purposeful leadership that might serve as a thought-starter to begin a dialog and create a ‘way in’ to get you thinking: ‘Hey, I do something like that?’ or ‘How do I define a purpose that is authentic to my brand?’ or ‘Does purpose matter for my company?’
Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit
- Small steps have huge impact Mark Benioff, CEO Salesforce
Named one of the top innovators by Forbes, Mark Benioff’s most unique quality is his commitment to societal issues. One of his quotes encapsulates this philosophy: “The business of doing business is to improve the state of the world.” When Benioff started Salesforce, he established the 1-1-1 model – called Pledge 1% – whereby Salesforce contributes one percent of product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employee hours back to the communities it serves globally. With Benifoff’s purposeful leadership, Salesforce removed the barriers of giving to create change and create a community of good people doing good things. The impact of his leadership has led to powering 28,000 nonprofits with Salesforce technology, more than $115 million in grants and 1.3 million employee volunteer hours. An added benefit to the world, a pay-it-forward moment if you will, is that Benioff’s vision for caring as much about the world as he did the bottom line has inspired more than 700 companies to adopt the Pledge 1% – and, we can only imagine, that these 700 companies inspired more companies to join Pledge 1%, and so on and so on.
- Create a rallying cry around a grander issue Neil Blumenthal & David Gilboa, co-CEOs Warby Parker
The four founders of Warby Parker (Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa Jeffrey Raider & Andrew Hunt) began with a simple mission to make affordable, fashionable eyewear and committed to a familiar pay forward a pair of glasses, or the value of a pair of glasses with every pair purchased – over 1 Million pairs paid forward so far. They were named one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company, in part because of their innovative retail strategy, but also because Blumenthal & Giboa’s leadership went one step in their commitment to make the world a better place and further and included a larger global issue in their vision – sight. More than 15% of the world’s population are unable to work or learn properly because they have eyesight problems. Without proper eyesight, those already suffering from low incomes are likely to be trapped in poverty indefinitely with an economic loss estimated at over $200 billion, annually. Blumenthal & Giboa’s leadership has led to funding entrepreneurial activities in the developing world related to sight and have begun to change the narrative on ‘sight’ for future generations.
- Competition meets Compassion Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO Chobani
Named one of the most innovative companies of 2017 by Fast Company, Hamdi Ulukaya forged a new kind of leadership – one that fuses competitiveness with an unusually strong sense of compassion. Ulkaya’s leadership is in line with how we counsel our clients at BRANDthropologie – the new economic engine where business growth and innovation is fueled by collaboration between the private and public sectors contributes to the world, as much as the bottom line. Under Ulukaya’s leadership, his vision is to make the world a better place not just for some, but for all the communities that they touch. In just the past year, Ulukaya has led with compassion and empathy and put a great deal of thought into cultivating a internal culture of warmth and enthusiasm that most people wouldn’t associate with a factory setting, launched a program to give away up to 10% of the Company’s equity to their workers and instituted a generous six-week parental-leave policy. And, this vision connects with consumers as well, as Chobani has captured more than 19% of the overall yogurt market?
I think we are in a new era where leaders must think about how they can bridge the gap between the public and private sectors, change the way we work and look at and engage with the communities in which we live. The future is now. There is a call to action for purposeful leadership that thinks beyond the bottom line to make tomorrow better than it is today. How will you lead?
Todd A. Myers is the Chief Strategy Officer at BRANDthropologie Media. He will lead client engagements to directly connect purpose positioning to value creation and content solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddMyers123