3. Leaders who make decisions with organisational purpose at the heart
Leaders are often in positions where they can make decisions for the business, whether at a macro or micro level, and most of these decisions should be made through the lens of purpose. However, this becomes more complex when you consider the different demands of your stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, investors and suppliers). Organisations that are guided by a meaningful purpose, rather than purely financial goals, will make decisions that have a positive and sustainable impact for all stakeholders.
Surprisingly, however, our survey showed that the majority of organisations are still a long way from being purpose-led. 71% of employees think their leaders still ‘always’ or ‘often’ make critical decisions solely based on financial considerations (i.e., profit, costs and growth) and 43% think that companies mostly reward and renumerate people for generating revenue and growing market share.
There is strong evidence that companies with a well-integrated purpose benefit from incremental value and outperform their competitors¹; it needn’t be an ‘either/or’ situation for leaders, but a ‘both/and’ one. In other words, it’s eminently possible to both contribute positively and make a profit.
Personally, I am a big advocate of our previous EY Lane4 research which revealed how, alongside being purpose-led, a distinguishing characteristic of future-fit leaders is their ability to hold seemingly paradoxical mindsets, balancing sets of conflicting beliefs, attitudes and values. For example, as a leader of Lane4 and now Managing Partner of EY Lane4, I have found being ‘ruthlessly caring’ a key tenet of my leadership practice.
In other words, making tough decisions to achieve performance but remaining compassionate no matter what. In practice, this might mean effectively collaborating with suppliers; aligning business activities with the environmental concerns of clients; being socially accountable to the public. Personally, this approach to business has always given me a sense of fulfilment and has also, I believe, underpinned our performance edge.
It’s possible to make both purpose-driven decisions and balance the interests of different stakeholders. The key is to have a meaningful organisational purpose at the heart of your business strategy.
A final word of caution for purposeful leaders
As highlighted in this white paper, leading purpose-led transformation can be exhausting. If you’re passionate about purpose it can be difficult to switch off. Make sure you introduce protective factors and habits to avoid getting purpose fatigue. Personally, I am looking after my own wellness by building daily mental and physical breaks into my diary.
To deliver purpose-led transformation, you need to be at your best psychologically, physically and emotionally.