The idea of leaders’ aligning individuals’ purpose with corporate purpose is not a new one. It has, however, shifted over the years.
In the late ’80’s and early ’90’s talk of considering your people’s purpose would’ve been seen as soft. Too nurturing for the hard world of business…where decisions were; “Just business. Not personal”.
The mid ’90’s brought a realisation that connecting individuals’ purpose with the corporate purpose increased engagement. The focus was on influencing to create that alignment.
We then had Daniel Goleman introduce Emotional Intelligence and Jim Collins talking about ‘getting the right people on the bus”. All of it connected in some way with a leader’s ability to align individual, team and corporate Purpose.
A shift was becoming evident, based on realisation that true leaders don’t try to influence purpose. Rather, they focus on discovering, or noticing the Purpose that drives the individual and finding connection between individual and corporate purpose. Jim Collins’ ‘right people’ is about hiring those whose Purpose drives them in the direction that the organization wants to go. It is not something we manipulate but something we look for and, where aligned, invite to join us.
The old adage ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ shows this clearly. A friendship that is only likely to last until the common enemy is done away with. That is, it will last as long as the Purpose of the friendship is still held by both parties.
I would like to suggest another layer to the force of Purpose. I worked for a retailer with a very transactional approach to their staff. They attracted staff whose main life Purpose lay outside of work. They invested only what was needed to keep getting the pay cheque that supported their purpose outside of work. The common purpose was strictly transactional.
Those with talent and drive, who looked to the work itself as a place to work out their Purpose, were soon crushed and or left. The retailer and the talented individual, if they’d looked for it, had strong alignment. The retailer’s structures and approach become the ‘iron curtain’ that kept the common purpose from driving success.
The extra layer I invite you to contemplate is; “What level of Purpose do your organisation’s structures and leaders invite others into?” (Where does commitment look more transactional like with the retailer or with the ‘enemy of my enemy’ and where does it look more like the deep bonds of brother’s in arms; a commitment grounded in Purpose that draws on our talent and drives us to success?)
We believe this is critical for leaders to pay attention to.