To ensure an organisation’s long-term success, pursuing purposeful behaviour is the best practice business leaders can follow to thrive in today’s stakeholder-driven world.
Author of the book Thriving in a Stakeholder World: Purpose as the New Competitive Advantage, Paul Ratoff described purposeful behaviour as a consistent action that is aligned with a meaningful and important purpose to all organisation’s stakeholders.
Stakeholders in Ratoff’s definition are much broader than in what we commonly know. In Ratoff’s context, stakeholders refer to all individuals or groups of individuals who impact or are impacted by the organisation. In his book, Ratoff demonstrates to business leaders how applying purposeful behaviour as a management style can be an effective way to optimize stakeholder value and provide a competitive advantage in their markets.
Five key best practices for business leaders to discover their organisation’s true purpose or mission are as follows:
Challenge yourself by continually asking the simple question, “Why is this meaningful and important to me?” until you are inspired. Start with the reason you wanted to go into business in the first place and then ask the “why” question.
“Why” questions spark curiosity in leaders and curiosity leads to better decision making. Walt Disney quotes, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps us leading down new paths.” In this sense, curiosity allows one to learn something or reflect on themselves. Keep asking that question until you come to an answer which you find inspiring or moving in some way.
Having an interest in something helps leaders lead better. For instance, Tomas is highly motivated to take over a leadership position primarily for two reasons. First, Tomas might be attracted by the high status that is commonly associated with a position and thus might feel more motivated to lead. Second, Tomas prefers organising events, structuring information, and checking the observance of guidelines, and thus interested in task-focused duties of leadership.
When individuals are more motivated to do a certain job when they see a fit between their interest and their job, they will tend to lead better and more motivated to fulfil their position. For this reason, you can look for actions you would like to take on in your life that inspire you. Something you are doing or might want to do outside of business, if only you had the time or money. Maybe there is a hobby you would love to take on, or a charity you are supporting, or a cause that is important to you. Then, consider how your business might serve as a vehicle to pursue that interest.
Leaders are there to lead – and leading requires motivation beyond material things. Therefore, in order to achieve purposeful behaviour to be a great leader, you should not limit yourself to the things your organisation does to make money.
Purpose and business model are very different. Think of your products and services as by-products of your organisation’s purpose. For example, a company could be committed to creating future leaders by training and developing young generations inside of a vertical retail-store/e-commerce business model.
By the same token, your product or service could also be the source of your passion. If that is true, you can use the “why” question to better understand the passion behind it. The value you bring to your customers can be defined as having three levels.
The three levels are physical level of the product or service that is often defined by its specifications and characteristics; emotional level that is defined by how it affects one personally, for example, how it feels or tastes or comforts; and conceptual level which has more to do with how it will impact the world, for example, reduce crime, improve overall health, reduce hunger, etc.
When you have achieved all three levels, not only does your business’s prosperity increase, but your personal image will be remembered better by stakeholders.
By personal goals, Ratoff is referring to goals that affect you directly, such as buying a house or becoming a famous person. Personal goals are very different from purpose. If you consider the time horizon, personal goals are generally achieved in a much shorter time period, say from one to five years. They only need to be inspiring to one person: You.
Purpose, on the other hand, would need to have a much longer time horizon, which could extend beyond many generations. “Purpose needs to be inspiring to many more people, specifically, the organisation’s key stakeholders,” said Ratoff. It is not uncommon for leaders to mistake personal goals for their organisation’s purpose. Oftentimes, leaders want the best for their company and aspire to be the largest company in the industry. They regard this as a personal goal but it would likely be an organisation’s purpose than a personal one.
Purposeful behaviour does result in many positive advantages for both leaders and organisation. Thus when you want to lead better and achieve greatness, it is important to take your purposeful behaviour in check.
Read also: What Really Matters in Leadership?