Purpose Beyond Profit

One of my greatest passions is doing my part to help corporations generate a strong sense of purpose beyond making money for its shareholders. So, when I came across this post on purpose beyond profit by Chris Nel at the Tom Peters blog, I just had to share it here. Chris says:

“I believe that we as humans search for a meaningful purpose in everything we do. We are at our very best when we find it. My simple business hypothesis is based on the fact that when humans are at their best (i.e., are purposeful) they run/work in extraordinarily successful businesses. So it turns out that the leader’s primary job is not to be a clever strategist or a brilliant technician (let alone control freak) but to help people find a clear sense of purpose (not revenue targets!) in the work that they do. Profit will follow from this, not lead it.

“For many, despite the material perks and relative comfort, corporate life adds up to the kind of purposeless existence that I would hate anyone I cared about to live in. (Doubt this? Please read The Living Dead: Switched Off, Zoned Out—The Shocking Truth About Office Life by David Bolchover.) Abraham Maslow would say that in the absence of a stronger sense of shared purpose, self-interest (i.e., anything from survival to self-actualization) prevails in decision making.

“As a leader you have to be a self-starter on purpose. Finding meaning where none is apparent. You can’t inspire unless you are inspired. So, if you are not inspired it’s your duty as a leader to discover it or disappear.”

These might be hard words to hear, but are very poignant in our time. I believe we are moving toward a critical mass of change in how we view the role of business in our society. No longer just a money-making machine, the corporation is the primary organizing structure of society, with vast responsibilities to its employees, customers, the environment, and the greater society. A key driver in this shift is the gradual recognition that humans need purpose beyond profit to feel engaged and motivated, and to give their highest talents to anyone else.

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