Leadership On Purpose

By Jim Clemmer

If the main reason for a company’s existence is profit, it is often not very profitable. When a company is fixated with the bottomline, there’s a good chance it won’t survive. The dollar sign isn’t a cause. It doesn’t stir the soul. Operating margins and return on investment don’t excite and inspire. As an ultimate objective on its own, the pursuit of profits is hollow and unsatisfying. It is one-dimensional, without depth. It comes from, and leads to, the naked selfishness of “what’s in it for me.”

Few people today want to buy from, work for, or partner with, a company that’s only out for itself. For example, I can’t imagine sitting down with my team, producing a set of elaborate architectural drawings for a huge, luxurious dream home, and saying, “If you all work really hard, someday this will be mine.”

In his book The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism – A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, Charles Handy writes, “The late David Packard, co-founder and inspiration of Hewlett Packard, one of the world’s most respected international businesses, put it this way, shortly before he died: ‘Why are we here? I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists solely to make money. Money is an important part of a company’s existence, if the company is any good. But a result is not a cause. We have to go deeper and find the real reason for our being. As we investigate this, we inevitably come to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company, so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental’.”


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Adriel Hampton

Reminds me of a good book that was recommened by another GovLooper last year – “The Future of Work,” by Thomas Malone. New communications and networking tools allow greater freedom to design one’s work, making purpose that much more central.

K. Scott Derrick

Jim: Nice post. This issue also reminds me of a quote from Oprah Winfrey:

“What I know is, is that if you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.”