5 Leadership Lessons to Create a Purpose-Driven Organization 

Small Business Canada

By Makeda Henry, Organizational Development Consultant with Realize Strategies, MA Organizational Psychology, Prosci

The idea of purpose has been embedded in organizations for years. It shows up as a formally stated organizational purpose, such as the mission or vision. Traditionally, most business purposes were rooted in providing a product or service, and goals were often driven by making a profit. However, over the past few decades, more and more companies have realized the benefits of aligning their purposes with the societal good. 

A strong purpose that resonates with others can attract and retain talent, create deeper connections with consumers, focus community investment and support, and more – all while enabling organizations to achieve higher performance and success in the process. At Realize Strategies, we see these benefits come to life for organizations as we work with leaders to help them unlock human potential to drive organizational purpose and ultimately, performance.

Multiple studies have shown that workers and consumers alike gravitate toward organizations making a positive social and environmental impact through their business strategies and decisions: 

  • A 2015 study by Deloitte found that 77% of millennials chose to work in their organization because of its purpose. Currently, millennials account for the largest generational share (37%) of working Canadians. 
  • Purpose fuels growth. Purpose-driven brands outperformed the stock market by 206% over a ten-year period between 2006 and 2016, grew on average three times faster than their competition, and accounted for 83% of surveyed revenue growth over-performers. 
  • In today’s world, many consumers choose to support brands that they identify with and reflect the values they hold. Deloitte found that the top three issues consumers identify with while making decisions about brands include: how they treat their people, how they treat the environment, and how they support the communities in which they operate. 

For organizations to succeed, they must understand who they are, whom they are serving, and why. Whether you are a for-profit or non-profit organization, your leaders must commit to creating an environment where employees rally behind an original purpose that provides them with a sense of meaning and understanding of how they are making an impact. 

5 Leadership Lessons to Create a Purpose-Driven Organization  Share on X
Here are 5 leadership lessons to create a strong purpose-driven organization: 

1. Clarify your mission

A fundamental element of creating a purpose-driven organization is having a clear mission. A mission is a powerful purpose statement that helps inspire your employees and motivates them to work toward the organization’s long-term vision. Having a purpose-driven organization means that the mission must be put into action rather than simply just a motto written on the wall. It should guide decisions and strategies and be exemplified in all you do.  

2. Connect your people to the organization’s purpose

Employees want to work for an organization they can connect with emotionally and intellectually. Leaders must communicate the organization’s purpose and incorporate it into all aspects of the organization, such as connecting individual day-to-day roles with overall organizational goals. Further, they must provide support so that employees can use their talents and resources in achieving the purpose (e.g., the ability to volunteer during paid working hours).  

3. Hire the right people

People aligned with an organization’s purpose are more likely to stay and be more engaged in their work. When hiring, it’s crucial to look beyond qualifications and experience and instead focus on aligning individual and organizational values and goals. It’s important to ask questions about values and purpose in the initial hiring stages so that all parties can determine alignment. This benefits both the employee and business metrics in continuously fulfilling its mission.

4. Focus on a social cause

Consumers choose brands because they advocate for issues they care about. To create purpose, you should decipher how your products and services contribute positively to society. Your organization can choose strategies related to philanthropy (e.g., donations, funding), environmental sustainability (e.g., carbon footprint), volunteering, or improving internal organizational practices (e.g., living wages, diversity), etc. It’s important to remember that purpose is not corporate social responsibility but should be ingrained in your business model. To start, answer, “What social cause do we care about?” 

5. Focus on living out values

While your mission statement communicates your purpose and direction, your organization’s values reflect its core principles and ethics. Your organization’s core values define how everyone in your workplace operates, behaves, and interacts daily. Leaders should spend time refining values that represent the mission and purpose of the organization and then generate explicit behaviours for each value that people can use to put them into action.

About Makeda Henry, MA Industrial Organizational Psychology, Prosci

Organizational Development Consultant, Realize Strategies

Makeda is an Organizational Development Consultant with Realize Strategies who applies her background in research and data (qualitative, quantitative, SPSS) to help client organizations achieve their full potential and foster positive workplace cultures. Prior to joining Realize Strategies, she supported leading for-profit companies in making informed decisions about their branding, products and services, and customer experience. Through the lens of employee engagement and wellbeing, Makeda uses a data-driven approach to identify core challenges within organizations and design happier, more effective workplaces. Makeda has worked with various non-profit organizations to implement changes that lead to improved programs, better services, and thriving cultures.

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