C-Suite Agenda

Why it’s important to lead with purpose

The purpose is a term often thrown around in business leadership circles, but few appreciate is its true value. Beyond its buzzword popularity, true purpose can unlock tangible business success for leaders able to harness its power.

As part of its 2018 Global Leadership Forecast, leadership consulting firm DDI analyzed data from over 25,000 business leaders from 54 countries, revealing a strong sense of purpose that improved both employee engagement and long-term financial performance. Of those surveyed, purposeful companies outperformed their peers by 42 percent.

For business leaders, connecting with a genuine purpose is essential to success. Those capable of connecting with a deeper sense of why they do what they do will realize the power they have to effect positive change in people’s lives.

For some, the path to finding purpose involves a journey into philanthropy. Counter to the popular myth, not all philanthropists are wealthy global CEOs. Most are in fact businesspeople striving for a more meaningful connection with their work and their local communities. By getting their hands dirty at a grassroots level, business leaders can make a genuine impact while building a culture of purpose within their own organizations.

Corporate giving does not have to be done on a Bill Gates scale, either. It could be as simple as donating goods or services to a local charity, sponsoring a local community group, or allowing employees to volunteer a small amount of time to a cause close to their hearts.

Leaders who embrace authentic philanthropy may be surprised that for all the difference they make in the community, their own organization, or their chosen cause, they may also see a significant shift within themselves.

Helping others can be a deep and profound experience, strengthening a leader’s resolve to try harder, be better, and dream bigger. Studies have also linked generous behavior with increased levels of happiness and motivation for further generosity.

Scientific journal Nature Communications published a study in 2016 which reported exactly that, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behavior with happiness. Participants promised to spend money over the next four weeks on others, or on themselves. Those who spent money on others reported stronger increases in happiness and made more generous choices in an independent decision-making task. The researchers concluded there was a neural link between generosity and happiness involving functional interactions between brain regions engaged in generous behavior and those mediating happiness.

Consumers increasingly want to engage with brands that have a strong sense of social responsibility. As a result, giving has become embedded in the culture of many large Australian businesses and there has also been growth in the number of small and medium enterprises engaging in philanthropy as part of their business strategies. According to the 2016 Giving Australia study commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, giving by small, medium, and large businesses reached $17.5 billion in 2015–2016. Those surveyed saw giving as a competitive advantage for employee engagement, social license, and stakeholder engagement.

These days, with an infinite amount of information at their fingertips, people are hungry for real, meaningful leadership. Employees are seeking from their leaders a deep sense of connection, authenticity, and guidance. Ultimately, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Every business needs to make money, but true purpose and connection can increase profits and employee engagement in surprising and meaningful ways. Leaders who embody this quality will effect the most meaningful and lasting change within themselves, their organizations, and communities.

Written by Nancy Youssef, Have you read?

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Nancy Youssef
Nancy Youssef is an award-winning finance broker, mentor, philanthropist, and founder of Classic Finance and Classic Mentoring. Recognised as a leader, innovator and industry expert, she is an ambassador for change both within the finance industry here in Australia, and in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. Nancy is the author of Fear Money Purpose, which is designed to inspire others – women especially – to step out of their comfort zone and be inspired to achieve more. Nancy Youssef is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.