The case for organisational purpose
Organisations form the lifeblood of our society and hold the power to shape and transform our world. They hold the potential through interconnectedness and creativity to build something altogether great. This is even truer now, as businesses grow in size and extend their reach. However, operating as they do within a complex and changing global environment they need increasingly to be purposeful if they are to achieve their desired impact in the world.
Hierarchy and known strategies are falling away, being replaced by values, relatedness and emergence. Organisations, and therefore their executive leaders, need increasingly to focus on winning hearts and minds, building radar and reach, maintaining strategic stakeholder relationships and ultimately protecting fiercely their brand and reputation.
A new kind of leadership
In this changing landscape new leadership skills are undoubtedly required. Skills that include the ability to embody and defend purpose, work with interconnectedness, build relationship capability, enable change, use conflict as a resource, and let go of knowing.
Three steps to wisdom
In my book ‘The Enlightened Organization’ I outline a framework that enables leaders to build a purposeful organisation. This comprises four distinct steps, as follows:-
An organisation without purpose flounders like a sailing boat without a mast. Which direction should it travel in? What course of action should it take? What will happen in rough seas? Executive leaders need to develop a deep understanding of their and their business’ purpose in the world so that it can guide them like a compass. This first step, purpose, is concerned with building that capacity for knowing, so that organisations can get to the heart of what really matters to them and stay connected with that.
This is the extent to which the organisation is aware of the strengths and gifts that it possesses and can therefore offer to the world. How much do its members and, in particular, its leaders and managers know and understand about their real skills and abilities? Perhaps equally important, how attuned are they to their defensive and reactive patterns of behaviour and how these play out in role and trip them up?
Obviously we don’t know what we don’t know. However we do need to be mindful of finding out about it, if we are to flourish in an uncertain environment that is increasingly emerging and co-created. This step, openness, asks that you look again, beyond purpose and your known strengths, beyond your known knowns to any unknowns that might be emerging. It involves the cultivation of a spirit of inquiry about oneself and one’s organisation within the wider context so that you can begin to exercise discernment in facing the choices and challenges that lie ahead.
Accessing this still quiet place, in order to find clues and signs, takes discipline and practice but it is this knowing and discernment that is increasingly being required of our global leaders. It is from this still quiet place that you are able to move to the final stage of the framework: wisdom.
The work now, at wisdom, is to take purpose, your skills and strengths and this deep knowing and discernment that you have cultivated into action in the world.
The implications for leaders
Of course, it falls on leaders and executives to do this work on their organisation’s behalf. At Enlightened Organizations, we help executive leaders to climb the three steps to wisdom for themselves. We show them how they can successfully align their and other’s contributions with the needs of their organisation and ultimately with the needs of their operating context. In doing so they become the leaders that we all require.
If you would like to know more about our strategic work on Purpose Driven Leadership, please reach out to us.