Purpose is a company’s reason for being. It’s a source of passion, and can play a powerful role in motivating and directing employees.

Carefully preened purpose can be the engine behind the engagement of an entire organization. It can be used to attract top talent. It can help to shape cultures that are widely admired and perform exceptionally relative to their peers. When thoughtfully conceived and expertly supported, purpose can transform idle, listless cultures into vibrant hotbeds of innovation. Purpose can be among the best tools for large companies to instigate collective movement and change. But these outcomes can only be achieved with the passion and commitment of company leadership.

Introducing the first in a series of blogs focused on leadership’s role in defining purpose, transforming company culture and aligning employees behind the mission, resulting in greater probability for business success.

Creating a Culture of Purpose

In 2013, Deloitte released a study called “Culture of Purpose: A Business Imperative.” The study highlights the importance that corporate culture holds in maintaining core beliefs and values. Over 1,000 professionals, including executives and employees, were surveyed.

According to Deloitte Chairman Punit Renjen, “organizations that focus beyond profit and instill a strong sense of purpose among their employees are more likely to find long-term success.” Yet the survey also revealed that the majority of employees (68%) and executives (66%) believe that businesses are not doing enough to create a sense of purpose.

leadership1Transformation Starts at the Top

If there is to be organizational transformation, leadership must instigate, define and embrace purpose. This is among the most crucial roles of management. As a strategic imperative, purpose must be conceived, nurtured and supported by leadership. To be effective, it must emanate from the top of the organization, be easily demonstrable and elevated as an ongoing priority.

Here are five guiding principles that can be used to transform culture into one that drives employee engagement and profits:

  1. Listen first. Employees need to embrace the changing culture.
  2. Be accountable to each other. The more things change, the more accountable we need to be.
  3. Empower and support. People will work more passionately for leaders that empower and encourage them.
  4. Communicate openly. This builds stronger teams and accountability.
  5. Take risks and action. Make the right decisions and move with urgency.

The leaders of companies like Google, Facebook and Cisco recognize the role culture plays in their success. But who are some of the other innovative executives doing a stellar job of creating a culture of purpose and bringing employees onboard?

In our next blog, we’ll look at some leaders who have been successful in defining, inspiring and embracing purpose in their organizations. We’ll start with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, where “it’s still day one,” and Lloyd Dean, CEO of Dignity Health, who’s been quietly making noise and driving change in the health care industry.

In part three of the series, we’ll look at leaders who have transformed the cultures of their companies from the inside out, including Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally, who’s credited with transforming the iconic company when it was on the brink of bankruptcy. We’ll also discuss Patty McCord, who, as Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, wrote a PowerPoint deck that defined Netflix culture and reinvented HR.

Then, in our final installment, we’ll feature John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, a company that has transformed its culture and changed the conversation in wireless under Legere’s leadership. We’ll see how they’re aligning employees behind their purpose and “Uncarrier” culture. We’ll also offer up some tips on employee engagement and purposeful alignment.

Has your company made purpose a strategic priority? Send us a message at conversations@jwtinside.com or follow us on Twitter @JWTINSIDE.

Wunderman Thompson Employ is a full-service recruitment advertising agency and employer branding consulting firm, creating pioneering ideas in strategic recruitment, human resource development and management, and more.