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Building purpose-led leaders and organisations

Organisations are not islands in society. The decisions leaders make and the behaviours people display can have profound impacts. Picture a stone being dropped into a calm pool, causing a ripple effect that grows ever larger: this is the effect a company can have within its community. Responsible businesses and purpose-led leaders recognise this and strive to ensure these ripples are positive, creating a virtuous spiral of activity that benefits as many people as possible.

Being a responsible business, one which is led by purpose, is increasingly important to employees, potential employees and even consumers. According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer survey, 60% of people say they will choose a place to work based on their values and beliefs. This is becoming even more pronounced among the younger generation: a survey carried out by YouGov found that 49% of Gen Z workers would accept an on average 20% pay cut to work in a purpose-driven organisation. That same survey also found 65% of Gen Z consumers would spend considerably more to buy products or services from a purpose-driven company. It pays to be responsible.

Feeling a strong sense of purpose is also clearly linked to people’s wellbeing, motivation and productivity at work. Just remember that famous anecdote of the NASA janitor who, when asked what he was doing by President Kennedy, replied: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” If we feel a meaningful connection to what we do, and can see the connection between our daily tasks and serving a greater purpose, our wellbeing is higher. People with a stronger sense of purpose are happier and less likely to experience stress. And when teams share a sense of purpose, individuals tend to be more satisfied with their jobs.

But how can organisations, and leaders, bring this to life? How can you go about building a truly responsible business that benefits as many stakeholders as possible, while being sustainable for the future? One way of thinking about this is through adhering to the seven principles of being an Evergreen business. These are principles to which we at Bailey & French passionately subscribe ourselves.

These seven principles are:

  • Purpose: The North Star that guides your business above all else
  • Private: An ownership model that allows for more flexibility and a longer-term view
  • Perseverance: The ambition and resilience to overcome challenges and pursue that purpose
  • Profit: Profit is not purpose – but it is essential to survival
  • People first: Taking care of your people, and culture
  • Paced growth: Growing consistently year to year, and balancing long- and short-term priorities
  • Pragmatic innovation: Embracing continuous improvement and innovation within a framework

These principles serve as a guide, but it’s leadership that brings them to life. Because for any of them to become reality in your organisation, leaders need to create a culture that encourages and enables people to deliver on and align themselves against these ways of operating.

Here are some of the leadership attributes that will help you build a thriving and responsible business:

  • Guided by purpose: What are your values and how do you find meaning in what you do? How do they align with the purpose of your organisation? Get to know what drives and motivates you and share this with others, asking them how they find meaning in what they do
  • Creating cultures of psychological safety: For innovation and creativity to thrive, people need to feel safe enough to take calculated risks that may not always work out, and to give and receive generous feedback. Psychologically safe environments allow people to thrive, bringing their unique strengths to work every day. And they encourage people to speak up if things aren’t right, creating transparency and a confidence that unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with.
  • Focusing on relationships: Organisations are made up of individuals, and individuals need to build relationships with each other to work as a team. We can strengthen relationships by building trust and building human connection, discovering their strengths and where they draw their sense of meaning and purpose. Leaders must role-model being genuinely interested in building connections with others.

In essence, responsible businesses require responsible leaders: leaders who understand the value of focusing on human experience.

Find out how Bailey & French can help your leaders build more resilient, purpose-driven and connected organisations.