Purpose-led Business Leaders Gain Competitive Advantage

purpose-led business leaders

Long ago we fell in love with this Fast Company article about purpose-led business leaders who are changing the way business works by embracing purpose. Here we recap its main points, and add additional perspective.

Generation Flux is a group defined less by age than by attitude.

According to the article’s author, Robert Safian, Generation Flux “refers to the group of people best positioned to thrive in today’s era of high-velocity change.”

Safian continues, “Fluxers are defined not by their chronological age but by their willingness and ability to adapt. These are the people who are defining where business and culture are moving. And purpose is at the heart of their actions. Don’t confuse this with social service. For these folks, a mission is the essential strategic tool that allows them to filter the modern barrage of stimuli, to motivate and engage those around them, and to find new and innovative ways to solve the world’s problems. Their experiences show the critical advantages of building mission into your career and your business. Businesses that find and then live by their mission often discover that it becomes their greatest competitive advantage.”

Purpose is the key to future business success

Many of today’s top leaders are thriving through their purpose-led business and brand strategies. They use purpose to better navigate the fast moving and changing world. Purpose has become a strong tool of differentiation, which is in itself the key to growth, loyalty, and long-term value. A purpose beyond profit raises the stakes both intellectually and emotionally, and gives employees, customers, prospects, and recruits meaningful reasons to think, feel, and act in new ways with respect to your brand.

Who are these Generation Flux leaders?

Purpose-led business leaders are emerging at many of the world’s largest companies, across a vast array of business segments. According to Safian, people like Steve Ells of Chipotle and Tim Cook of Apple represent, “a rising breed of business leaders who are animated not just by money but by the pursuit of a larger societal purpose. Their motivation may be personal, emotional, and, yes, moral; and yet their idealism is rewarded in the marketplace. In a world that is evolving faster than ever, companies such as Apple and Chipotle–and Google and PepsiCo, and even fashion brands like Eileen Fisher–rely on mission to unlock product differentiation, talent acquisition and retention, and even investor loyalty. The more they focus on something beyond money, the more money they make.”

Is this just about making people happier at work, and giving a “feel-good” factor to your marketing/advertising?

Many people confuse the main outcome of being purpose-led. It is not simply to make people feel happy (though there’s no problem if one of the sensations they have along the way is happiness). Purpose is a much deeper idea, one that drills down to satisfying core human needs. People seek meaning in their lives. According to Safian, “Jennifer Aaker at Stanford University has taken this idea even further. She challenges the very notion that a pursuit of happiness is what drives us most. Her work suggests that people’s satisfaction with life is higher, and of greater duration, when meaning–rather than happiness–is their primary motivation.”

How do leaders develop and execute a purpose-led strategy?

According to Safian, Generation Flux leaders follow an inside-out strategy.

“Purpose is at the essence of why firms exist,” says Hirotaka Takeuchi, a management professor at Harvard Business School. “There is nothing mushy about it–it is pure strategy. Purpose is very idealistic, but at the same time very practical.”

Inside-out is a new way of thinking about business and brand strategies. Generation Flux leaders embrace the discomfort that new thinking generates, and use the resulting energy to forge a new and more powerful approach.

According to Takeuchi, at a company built on an inside-out strategy,

“the beliefs and ideals of management become the core. Why does the firm exist?” The research Takeuchi has done with Ikujiro Nonaka at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo shows that the key differentiator between enterprises is how they envision their futures. “A very bland mission doesn’t resonate,” he explains. A dynamic, long-term plan requires a mission that’s clear, focused, and invaluable: “Look at what Walt Disney wanted: ‘to create timeless, universal family entertainment,'” Takeuchi continues. “If you have those five words, there’s no doubt in the mind of employees or anyone else what you’re about.”

Should you join Generation Flux?

As noted above, Generation Flux is about looking at the world ahead and deciding that yesterday’s approaches and tools won’t be enough. The leaders of the new powerhouses of our economy embrace brand strategy embedded with meaning and purpose as the “North Star” of their organizations. They rally all their people around this idea, make every decision based on fulfilling this ideal, and through all this, fundamentally change their brand’s ability to compete and thrive.

Can you see how purpose helps address key business issues? Can you see how your leadership would reach new levels of effectiveness? Can you see how a new energy would be there to help your organization propel itself through an uncertain future?

If so, welcome to Generation Flux. Go and be purposeful!

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.



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