Sometimes I hear people say in response to these ideas: “but CEOs only care about profits”. To this I wrote: “Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..“, and I also give you this:
“The more it invests in its beliefs and its products, the better Patagonia performs, develops creative solutions, and maps out a blueprint for other businesses, big and small, to follow. Doing good work for the planet creates new markets and makes [us] more money. That’s the Patagonia way.”
~ Rose Marcario, CEO, Patagonia
Patagonia is a great example of a Purpose-led business that, the more it leads from purpose, the more profit it makes, so the more it can scale impact. Here are some other examples from articles already written on my site:
Beautiful Leadership – Purpose and Herb Kelleher
Beautiful Leadership – Purpose and the Corporation
Beautiful Leadership – Patagonia’s Righteous Flywheel
My starting point for you, then, is to bring awareness to the fact that this is not only possible but that it smashes the paradigms of Profit being the primary driver for CEOs and other business leaders. Leading from Purpose can and does scale your impact and, with focus on business principles, make the profits necessary for scale, not simply to enrich shareholders.
“Why should the citizens of this world keep companies around whose sole purpose is the enrichment of a few people?” ~ Paul Polman, outgoing CEO of Unilever, asked in Feb 2018
Perhaps inspired by that question from the CEO of one of the world’s largest corporations, Martin Wolff, chief economics commentator for the FT, wrote an article in the FT, Dec 11, 2018 : “We must rethink the purpose of the corporation”. Here I give you one thought from Martin from his article:
“Profit is not itself a business purpose. Profit is a condition for — and result of — achieving a purpose.”
The phrase triple bottom line was coined in 1994, those three drivers being people, profit, planet. However, I believe it is now time for new thinking around the drivers of a corporation and removing profit as a source driver.
Please be clear, I absolutely believe in business as a force for good, so it is critical to focus upon Profit as an outcome from leading from Purpose, as without this we cannot Scale our Impact as leaders and with our businesses.
So, I clarified my focus on this in January 2019 with the graphic above and this launch article: “Purpose, People, Planet. The new triple bottom line.“. Since then, this has been a primary focus for me in my daily writing and my focus in conversations, reading, collaborations. If it intrigues you as a possibility, I’d love to talk.
I began today with :
Putting Purpose first truly drives profit to allow you to further scale your impact.
Start to learn how to do this in a real-world way.
Hopefully, I’ve caught your attention so far, including with some real-world examples. So, how can you do this in a real-world way? Clearly, for a newsletter I can’t get too granular, so will stay contextual, with three thoughts for you. I have, thought, added many links, each of which will both give you more depth and also ideas and inspiration for you to put into practice in your organisation.
Sounds obvious, but a key is to focus on putting Purpose first, and I mean first.
It is this simple and also a tough measure to hold to. As one of my mentors taught me, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change”, so I hope in reading this today it has brought you some further awareness of the potential that lies in Leading from Purpose.
Also, don’t engage in “Purpose-washing”. The more I focus on this, the more I see companies and their leaders talking up a good story, yet underneath it all sometimes it feels that the better the story, the more toxic things are underneath the surface.
I baulk whenever someone says about Purpose, Culture, Values that this is the “soft stuff”. No way. Leading from Purpose is not only hard, but it also creates the hardest and firmest measures possible. Act outside of the Purpose and Culture of an organisation and the truly Purpose-led organisation will “spit out” those who behave in such a way.
Be real about this. Don’t try to be perfect. The word “more” is really powerful (see “Being More” as a post, as well as “BeMoreYou” as the page on my site outlining the characteristics I see in those Leaders I love to work with.
I love to support leaders at all levels, but my client focus is most often on those leading large and complex international companies that are already operating at scale. It is key for those companies to recognise that they are on a journey to “Be More”. In “Put People First and Do What is Right“, I wrote about one such client, Stantec, who I have found to be committed to always being more, to lead from their Purpose and Values.
I often come across purists who seem to think Profit is an ugly word. No way. You must generate both profit and cash in order to survive, then thrive, then scale your impact.
So, you must focus relentlessly on your financial numbers (as a recovering Chartered Accountant, of course I will be hard-nosed about this!), as if you don’t, no matter how much you lead from purpose, it is of no value to you or the world if you go out of business!
There is much I could talk about here, but today I’ll close with a beautifully simple simulation that has you act as a CEO and look to balance Purpose and Profit. Thanks to the FT for putting this out there for us.