Reimagining the context of work: Leveraging Shared Purpose for Better World

By Whitney Vosburgh + Charlie Grantham

Practice: Leverage — how to put your purpose to work

So, where are we in our story about putting Shared Purpose to work? Let’s do a brief review. This entire discussion started with the realization that most of our social institutions are either failing or have become dysfunctional — they no longer promote the well-being of people and their communities.

Given that premise, we have begun to lay out a process, which can provide a vision of a different context, for the social contract that people typically have with their governing institutions. First, the new New Story, or the new context of work, centers on people having, knowing and understanding their Purpose. Secondly, that purpose is anchored in physical and other types of community, which gives them a sense of Place. Now, we get to the ‘so what’.

Make It Happen: Talk the talk AND walk the walk

How can people leverage Purpose and Place so that they impact the largest collection of humanity that they possibly can? And that bring us to this blog about Practice in the sense of what do you do everyday, day in and day out, to consciously live out a personal and shared purpose?

Well, it depends. It depends to a large extent on what role you have assumed in your organization or community. For simplicity’s sake, we have divided those roles into three groups: Leaders, managers and a new group we call catalysts. What we would like to suggest is that the form of practice each groups engages is in will be somewhat, even radically, different than others. The key is realizing which group you fall into. Let’s take them one at a time.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


A leader’s practice centers on creating and exploring. As we said in the last blog, leaders focus on doing the right thing. That’s where their leverage is located. Doing the right thing for the largest group of people possible magnifies their impact.

The secret to a leader’s practice is determining just what is the right thing. Leaders find themselves at the center of attention for many competing interests. Who is right? Who is only out for their own advantage? How does all this get sorted out? Going back to our first idea that all action needs to come from intentional purpose, perhaps a way to do this is to test the competing concerns.

Is this about monetary profits, or is it about the welfare of others? We’ve mentioned it before, that if purpose towards serving a greater good comes first, the profit will follow. Once key questions have been asked and answered, a leader can articulate core values, point the community in a new direction, and reinforce cultural norms, which spread the wealth, so to speak — as the head moves, the body follows. Leaders know the importance of being a story leader, sharing value, being social and walking their talk.


A manager’s practice focuses on setting a new normal for the community. Their practice is about getting to where the leader points. The way they leverage that is by starting new coordinates towards the shared purpose. And the unique way they do this is through judicious stewardship of resources. For example, they can use an ‘allocation of energy’ matrix to map their actions.

Managers constantly scan their activities to see what they need to stop doing, slow down, maintain a status quo, speed up and start anew. The logic to this practice is finding energy and resources in things that have stopped and slowed, which can be re-allocated to other things and need new beginnings or more attention. This gets them out of the ‘stuck’ box.


It’s difficult to describe how catalysts leverage their practice. These are the people who Richard Florida described as the ‘super creatives’. About 12% of the population’s focal point is to find problems not yet realized. They are often seen as somewhat strange and even eccentric.

They do their own thing, don’t follow rules very well and are highly intuitive. These are the folks who are the boundary spanners in communities. They bridge different ways to practice. In a sense they create expansive story narratives which integrate ideas from many different perspectives. Most often they appear to generate ideas and practices out of thin air.

They cannot be managed in a traditional sense. But they can be encouraged to look in new and different directions. “Hey, why don’t you go take a look at xxxxxxxx?” There are two basic strategies to leverage this directed action into shared purpose. One technique is to give them tools of expression so they can communicate with ever larger and larger groups. In today’s world this amounts to wide ranging access to social media, but complemented with more traditional means such as writing, expressive art and ever more video.

The second way to leverage independents is to pair them with others who have different subject matter expertise. You get things like ‘astro-biologists’, ‘theater engineers’ and perhaps ‘spiritual healers’. It is most curious that this group has the highest potential to leverage shared purpose simply because they operate in the unknown regions of human endeavor. These are the people who pull the future into the present — they are literally working the future, today.

Catalysts are literally working the future, today.

Catalysts offer hope of a new, better tomorrow in today’s world, where we operate day-to-day on reptilian emotions and monkey motives, we are governed by medieval institutions, and worship at the altar of technology. Leave them out and you could die a slow death.

The Challenge

So, who are you: Leader, manager, or catalyst? We have one closing question for you. If you are operating out of your realized purpose, and you are standing in a place of shared community, what are you going to do tomorrow to leverage your abilities to promote well-being by a factor of 10, or more?

When you have an answer to that question, you will have your own purpose pathway laid out for all to see and follow.

Now, we have opened the door to a New Story of Work; we’ve talked about the True North Star of Shared Purpose; given you a map of the new place territory; and offered some ideas of how to practice this within each of our major role categories. The next blog (#5) brings us full circle, and with the focus and in of the Catalyst role, talks about how brand transformation can lead the way.

Who Are Those Guys? Whitney Vosburgh and Charlie Grantham are two purpose bandits who steal from the rich in purpose and give it to the poor. They have collaborated with many companies, colleges, cities and communities in the act of transformation through purpose-built, values-driven strategy and activation. To find out how we might co-create transformative results with you, visit us at Brand New Purpose.