Leadership 2018:
Allegiance to Purpose

2018-Business-EthicsI’ve been writing about leadership values and business ethics in recent posts. It’s clear to me that successful leadership in 2018 will require better business principles and allegiance to purpose.

Let’s look at business ethics and principles from a different angle. In my opinion, it’s hard to come up with really good innovative ideas and products when people are driven by money and profits alone. It just is. But when you ask people to imagine a product or service that knocks the socks off customers, now, that sparks inspirational ideas. It makes all the difference in the world when innovators are inspired by lofty values.

Remarkable contributions are spawned by a passionate commitment to timeless human values, such as beauty, truth, wisdom, justice, charity, fidelity, joy, courage, and honor. ~ Gary HamelWhat Matters Now?

Hamel thinks that humanizing the language and practice of management is a business as well as ethical imperative. He writes, “A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance.” So the next time people scoff about noble business ideals and values, remind them that while there’s nothing wrong with utilitarian values like profit, advantage, and efficiency, they are just not inspiring for innovation or hard work.

By definition, every business is values-driven, but an uplifting sense of purpose is more motivating than profits and promotions. Yet most managers I meet in the work I do coaching executives, use incentives like bonuses, pay and promotion to stimulate people to good work. They are reluctant to emphasize timeless human values like generosity, honor, human relationships, beauty, or justice. It seems inappropriate in our mechanical, competitive, materialistic, and rational workplaces.

It’s rare for a leader to come out and espouse big-hearted goals and high-minded ideals. Perhaps they fear coming across as Pollyanna, soft or silly. Nevertheless, long-lasting success, both personal and corporate, has always been attributed to an allegiance to a lofty purpose bigger than selfish utilitarian ideals. Why are we afraid of expressing those higher purposes?

Simon Sinek, an author and acclaimed TED speaker, believes that the only way to inspire others to work and innovate lies in starting with “why,” setting our inspirational purpose first.

I don’t think leaders need to shy away from setting out noble values and purpose, even in the most utilitarian businesses. Money and prestige are powerful motivators but never as powerfully inspirational as a cause greater than oneself. But that’s my opinion and perhaps that’s not true for everyone.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn. Happy New Year!

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