In my work with entrepreneurs, I have concluded that finding and communicating that purpose is often more important than the solution offered.
For example, Toms shoes inspired everyone by highlighting and effectively communicating a higher purpose from founder Blake Mycoskie of helping the needy by donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold. He found that the return was far greater than the cost of donated shoes, and his team became intensely loyal, due to the opportunity to travel and deliver shoes to other countries.
I found real insights into this strategy, along with specific sources of inspiration in a new book, Leading With Heart, by John Baird and Edward Sullivan. The authors based it on their decades of experience in building companies and executive coaching and reference real cases and business leaders.
I offer here their summary of purposes and inspirations that have motivated existing business leaders with insights from my own mentoring and coaching experience. I challenge each of you to find that purpose that will drive your business, your team, and your customers to the next level.
1. Inspired by the desire to leave a lasting legacy.
I have encountered several business leaders whose real purpose was to create a positive personal legacy, such as research to cure a difficult disease. But they failed to disclose the intent to their team and constituents. I urge you to share your purpose early and highlight it in every strategy.
Perhaps a more important legacy to your team is how you treat them in the business. Make your purpose to leave a legacy as a model leader and it will live on for years. With continuing positive impacts in staff meetings, presentations, and around the water cooler.
2. Challenge yourself to deliver a technical innovation.
Many technologists have a passion for new technology, but only a few are able to communicate the value in terms of future impact on society. Elon Musk, for example, has been able to achieve SpaceX success largely by tying efforts to the future of mankind in their travels to other planets.
3. Take the opportunity to internationally travel and learn.
Your purpose may be purely to enhance your own lifestyle, but even that needs to be communicated to your team and highlighted in your strategic guidance. Everyone needs to understand what drives you, and how they can help you achieve your purpose. People need to see you as a person.
For Logan Green of Lyft, his international travel purpose helped inspire him to create and grow an industry-altering business. By finding new perspectives, he was able to redefine business models and satisfy customer needs in new and ingenious ways.
4. Driven to reduce personal hardship and suffering.
Many of us have lost a loved one to, or suffered personally from, the ravages of cancer or another life-threatening disease. If your business is health-technology related, I urge you to share this with your team and customers and ask for their help versus leaning on profitability, price, and process.
Also, no matter what your current hardship or suffering is, it's important you continue to believe that whatever you're going through will also help you grow enormously, and that's what purpose in business is all about. As you grow, so will your team and customers.
5. Satisfy a need for personal lifestyle fulfillment.
Many of the most successful fashion and even dating organizations were built around a leader with the purpose of personal dedication to a more fulfilling lifestyle. You see this today on the internet. People who dominate social media as influencers lead customers to new trends and brands.
6. Accept a challenge to share a unique gift and skill.
We all have unique strengths, such as design skills, or connecting well with others. I urge you to assess yours, and listen to friends and mentors, to find and highlight a purpose that perhaps you didn't even see in yourself. Sharing is a lot more effective with customers than selling and marketing.
Every business leader and customer I know can tell when you or someone on your team has no purpose--they are just doing a job today or are out for themselves. Having a purpose is more lasting over time, inspires better service, reinforces values, and drives performance. Be the model for everyone around you by finding your purpose and communicating it to the rest of us.