The Power of Purpose
As I continue to explore the DNA of an innovator it is clear that the most inspiring leaders have a special ‘X factor’ grounded in their authenticity. But what keeps them authentic? What lets them be laser-focused on achieving what may sometimes feel impossible? What enables them to be able to stay inspired while inspiring others to follow?
It is purpose.
These individuals, people like Focus Brands’ Kat Cole and Mailchimp’s Ben Chestnut, are purposeful in what they do. They also have a clear purpose for those who they lead. This inside-outside focus keeps the leader centered between their own thoughtful motivations and the shared intentions they help to inspire in the people around them.
Regardless of the specific motivations or objectives, we know it’s impossible to create change without a why and a desire to work. Without purpose, the direction is unclear. Without purpose, the people in the organization lack the inspiration to innovate and problem-solve. Purpose inspires and equips people and organizations to evolve to heights that may otherwise seem inconceivable.
In every organization, whether big or small, the lifeblood is its team of motivated employees who are working toward a big, shared goal. Their collective motivation comes from true inspiration from leaders, who are guided by a sense of purpose that they share throughout the organization.
The leader sets the vision for the organization and keeps everyone grounded in meaningful work. You set the tone and introduce the goals that become collective intentions and efforts. How you do those things determines how easily and effectively innovation happens in the organization. Unmotivated teams are stagnant and incapable or unwilling to push change or innovation. On the other hand, teams who believe in the purpose of the leadership and the organization have a north star and a reason to work each day. The outcomes are very different.
Every single person in your organization needs to feel inspired and oriented around a purpose if the organization is going to move forward. That starts with you.
A defining mark of strong innovation leaders is the ability to truly inspire. They move others and create environments where ideas come from everyone, and people are praised for their contributions. That capacity to lead begins with a sense of personal purpose that motivates decisions and behaviors. It also gives deeper meaning to the work.
Purpose-driven leaders have amazing authenticity. It’s a common trait among those with the innovator’s DNA. Authenticity is the ‘X factor’ that enables leaders to showcase their true selves in a way that is both unapologetic and inspiring. Having a clear purpose empowers and enables leaders to be authentic, and to be a magnet that draws others to follow.
Purpose-driven Innovative Leaders in Action
Kat Cole is a notable leader and innovator. Currently the COO and president of North America for Focus Brands, she is a fierce leader dedicated to making decisions for the betterment of her peers. Kat graced a Disruptor Studio conversation to talk about how she lives her personal purpose every moment of every day. In that conversation, she observed that she didn’t always know that helping “people realize they’re capable of more than they know” was her purpose but as soon as she discovered it, she committed to doing just that — in every way she invests her time. Whether professionally or personally, if she’s intentional and ‘on’ her purpose, she is optimized.
It’s Kat’s constant commitment to living a purpose that positions her to inspire others to be better in all aspects of their lives. She kindly and firmly breaks the stereotypes of a traditional corporate leader. As she does, she helps everyone around her to break their own mold, becoming more than a “normal” leader to grow more capable.
Strategy is the boat. The leader points that boat in a direction. But without wind, the boat won’t go anywhere. With this metaphor, Mailchimp CEO Ben Chestnut zeroes in on the idea that culture is the manifestation of the purpose of a business. One of the many reasons why Ben is universally described as a great business leader and innovator is his capacity to instill purpose within an organization.
Early in his years at Mailchimp, Ben recognized that setting deadlines and project management are critical to the success of a company but that they are ineffectual without purpose and inspiration. Those are the tailwinds that move a company to innovate and change. And those come from people — customers whose wants and needs change continually, and team members who build the solutions to answer those wants and needs.
Through his years leading the company, Ben has come to believe that meaningful work is one of the most important ways to instill a sense of purpose within people. By having a shared collective goal, people are naturally inspired to do their work to the best of the ability and spur innovation on all levels of an organization. Ben and his team live out that belief at Mailchimp by bringing difficult challenges to employees, not monotonous work. Challenge instills inspiration and a sense of purpose in each employee, who feels as though their work is meaningful and important. And the customer feels it too.
Once in place, purpose is a guiding and connecting force for individuals, organizations, and even markets. This why shapes what people do, who participates, and how they accomplish desired outcomes. It is essential for keeping you authentic and confident as you direct your organization. As Kat and Ben explain and show through their words and their work, purpose is the ultimate enabler of strategy, business or personal growth, and impactful change.
What is your purpose? Does it let it be your authentic self? Will it motivate others to follow you? The answers to those questions are your first steps to being inspired and inspiring to others.