Purpose: The Holy Grail Of Success

Purpose: The Holy Grail Of Success

Though the spectrum is wide and the styles are varied, a common and prominent element among most of the leadership icons is a purpose-focused endeavour.


Over the years, as a part of my professional career, I have had the opportunity of interacting and working closely with several eminent corporate citizens of India Inc. It provided me with an opportunity to observe and discover patterns in their leadership behaviour that differentiates them from the others. Though the spectrum is wide and the styles are varied, a common and prominent element among most of these icons is a purpose-focused endeavour. The intensity and commonality of purpose orientation stand out among a few other competing variables.


Defining the Purpose


Starting in the mid-1980s until the end of the 20th century, there was a movement in most of the bluechip Indian corporate brands to define Purpose, Vision and Values and Mission for their organisations. Some renowned management thinkers were involved in driving and shaping such efforts. They helped management teams to distil and define these important building blocks of institution building. Initially, for naysayers, it appeared as an additional fad to die down with time (or a must-have check box as a part of brand identity).


In retrospect, the impact of this move has been profound in culture building within organisations. It has created a deep and long-term impact in more than one way. It helped organisations to evolve their corporate character with clarity and focus. It has continued to help in sharper strategy formulation over the years; one that is aligned to the Corporate purpose and mission. At an aggregate level, pursuing the journey with stated Purpose and shared Vision and Values has significantly influenced the growth and sustainability of Indian corporate brands during this period. There is an important inference for career professionals from this development.


Distance defined by a direction


When there is clarity in purpose, the direction is clear and the distance covered is longer. The Insight of the statement is so commonplace and simple that there is always a possibility of underestimating the impact. There are a variety of reasons which drive consistent purposeful behaviour (or its absence) among people across the spectrum. Such an attribute is not limited to the apex leadership levels, but, is also commonly observed across the hierarchy within every organisation. It is also not limited to professional endeavours and expands into other areas of life. People who are sharp in knowing the purpose of engagement as a matter of habit are generally able to create a disproportionate impact in every endeavour.


A commonly accepted universal measure of life is the number of years that a person is alive. A Year is a mathematical collection of 12 months, each of which is a summation of 30 or 31 days. A day in turn is a total of 24 hours. Hence, interestingly, whatever we do every hour (or less) gets gradually accumulated to roll into months and years, and finally, defines the impact that any individual can create during his/her lifetime. If the undertaking is NOT oriented to purpose as a matter of habit, life to that extent is lessened in impact.


In the course of our work and life, we happen to meet different types of people. A keen observation of the behaviour of different people helps us in understanding the impact of purpose focused behaviour (and actions) versus those of others. People who are sharp to decide the purpose of engagement in advance as a matter of habit can create a disproportionate impact in every endeavour; big and small. Their thoughts, words and actions converge and align towards the purpose to be achieved. It is about the convergence of all the available resources to achieve the objective with a focus to create momentum. It is very similar to mobilisation of resources by a Corporate entity to achieve its stated objectives.


The determinants of success


Purposefulness and Purposelessness are mental orientations in varying degrees that change at different stages of life on the basis of the conditions around us and progressive life experiences. But, it continues to remain as one of the most powerful determinants of success and achievement. Hence, if an individual’s objective is to succeed and do well in their professional career of choice, a well thought through mental model to continuously grow one’s purpose orientation in everyday behaviour is immensely helpful. Comparatively, it is difficult to practice as it needs an agile mind discipline to not get attracted towards easier options that are widely available. Higher degrees of purpose orientation help stay focused on the chosen course.


In the context of an organisation, it has important implications for culture-building and leadership development. Culture flows from the narrow end of the pyramid, and hence, the behaviour demonstrated by organisational leaders greatly influence the larger workforce members to get their cues of what is expected from them. An example of such influence is the way meetings are carried.


The content and quality of conversations during regular meetings act as a guide for participants in deciding the mode of their follow up actions. Organisations get what they offer to their people. Trusting policies lead to trustworthy behaviour and vice versa. Purposeful behaviour must be encouraged by way of promoting such managers into higher positions. And, over a period, more such leaders will emerge to take the organisation’s purpose ahead. In case, it is not included as an important variable in developing internal leaders, then a combination of random variables (or chance) will decide the outcomes.


With the advent and application of technology at workplaces, coupled with increasing remote working, result orientation will progressively eliminate activity orientation as a way of life in commercial organisations. Rewards systems will have an increasing degree of direct correlation with results. In such a dispensation, purpose-driven efforts will provide an edge to individuals.


To simplify, to ease


We are living in the most exciting time in human history, wherein, powered by technology, new norms are replacing the existing order in every facet of work and life. The move is to simplify and create ease for people to meet their needs. Workplace and work-related complexities are increasing and the competition is getting more intense for succeeding generations.


At the same time, it is becoming increasingly easier to succeed and get ahead. It is an interesting conundrum worth understanding for professionals who want to succeed in the new-age workplace. There are a large variety of options available for everyone to experiment, engage, adapt, submerge or discard. These options may foster or impede advancement of career due to time investment vs value derived. Professional success is relatively easier to achieve for those who align their efforts and make the right choices to well thought through objectives. If the efforts are dissipated towards all the available options, the impact will also be lesser to that extent.


The case is not to suggest a mechanical or regimented way of life in everything that one does, but, to grow a mental orientation for careful application of mind in deciding the purpose of undertaking any act in work, life, leisure, entertainment, relationships or any other track for achieving the objectives.


Such a regime requires clarity and determination. The effect is significant, to say the least. Reflections of recent events, outcomes of important inter-personal engagements, causal connections of results etc. help self-assessment and the course of action to be pursued. Candid conversations with trustworthy stakeholder(s) and genuine feedback are other means to get clarity and progress in enhancing one’s purpose orientation. One of the quick ways to enhance purpose orientation is to identify purpose-driven people around us and get a greater amount of meaningful engagement with them. The Induction effect of such a company helps sharpen our instincts and moderate our overall approach.

Dr Jayant Kumar is currently Head HR of APSEZ (Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd) and its other entities. Prior to joining APSEZ, he was the CHRO at Tata Power Co. Ltd. He has also worked with Hindalco Industries, NTPC, TPDDL, RCOM, Tata Teleservices and Marico Ltd. An alumnus of XISS, Jayant holds a PhD in the area of Talent Management.


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