What are we missing in the purpose-driven leadership puzzle?

Photo By Minh T

When I heard about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle for the first time, I was quite surprised. I decided to challenge myself with the exercise. I was still part of the consulting and construction world back then. I knew exactly what we were doing, and I could somehow describe how we were doing it. But I couldn’t explain the company’s “why” nor my own purpose for what we were accomplishing.

This Harvard Business Review article best describes the problems in the purpose-driven leadership.

“Academics argue persuasively that an executive’s most important role is to be a steward of the organization’s purpose. Business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance, while psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being.”

As we are aware of the importance of purpose, we still have troubles implementing this important factor in our professional lives. The biggest issue is that our leaders and employees can barely describe their individual purpose in one simple phrase!

“Despite this growing understanding, however, a big challenge remains. We’ve found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement.”

It seems as though the biggest problem lies in defining our own purpose.

“What Is Purpose? Your leadership purpose is who you are and what makes you distinctive. Whether you’re an entrepreneur at a start-up or the CEO of a Fortune500 company, a call center rep or a software developer, your purpose is your brand, what you’re driven to achieve, the magic that makes you tick. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do your job and why — the strengths and passions you bring to the table no matter where you’re seated. Although you may express your purpose in different ways in different contexts, it’s what everyone close to you recognizes as uniquely you and would miss most if you were gone. At its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are. Purpose is not a list of the education, experience, and skills you’ve gathered in your life. Purpose is also not a professional title, limited to your current job or organization.”

“Purpose should be specific and personal, resonating with you and you alone. It doesn’t have to be aspirational or cause-based. And it’s not what you think it should be. It’s who you can’t help being.”

Millennials are searching for a sense of purpose at the workplace and we are attracted to those companies with a purpose-driven leadership at their core. But we are not succeeding as we are missing a much more fundamental question: Knowing our own individual life purpose. How can we expect a purpose-driven leadership from individuals who do not have a concrete personal purpose? Don’t we agree that organizations are a group of individuals working together? So how can we have high hopes from our organizations without focusing on ourselves first?

Based on the valuable information we have collected, we have designed a simple and accessible tool. We have realized that before searching for purpose at work, we need to somehow clarify our mission and purpose at a personal level. We believe this little exercise can be a great start!