Lead With Purpose: Remind Them of the Why

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Culture Code" by Daniel Coyle. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What does it mean to lead with purpose? And what can you, as a leader, do to instill a strong sense of purpose in your team?

To lead with purpose means to lead with an acute awareness of the end goal. Leaders who lead this way provide their subordinates with a constant stream of reminders of the company’s mission, answering the question, “why do we do what we do?”

Keep reading to learn how to lead with purpose.

How to Lead With Purpose

Purpose creates a central message that guides the direction of the company. Purpose answers the question: why do we do what we do?

To lead with purpose, you must first make sure that your subordinates understand what your purpose is in the first place. Often, leaders think that the purpose of the company is clear and apparent to all employees. Unfortunately, this is not typically the case.

To instill a strong sense of purpose in your organization, you need to provide your subordinates with a constant stream of direct signals that include reminders of your company’s purpose or indirect symbols such as catchphrases, iconography, and mission statements. Here are some tips on how to remind your team of your company’s purpose.

Develop a unified language through catchphrases. Catchphrases may seem corny, but their cheesiness gives them power. Ridiculous phrases stick in the minds of team members. Catchphrases make company ideals easy to remember and immediately actionable. Keep it simple and straightforward:

  • Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
  • Shoot for the stars, but be happy with the moon.
  • Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Use iconography and items to solidify your company’s purpose. Put identifiable company objects and icons around the workspace. Such iconography could include awards, team photos, gear, or sketches. These items serve as a constant reminder to team members: this is why we do what we do.

Set the bar, and set it high, especially with seemingly small tasks. If the small things are treated with the utmost care, this behavior will typically seep into larger tasks. To encourage these standards, develop phrases to translate your purpose into expectations. For example, if you’re coaching basketball, and you want your players to give 100%, you may use the phrase “Backline-to-Backline,” implying that you expect them to sprint on every change of possession.

Use mental contrasting. Mental contrasting is the process through which you visualize an attainable goal, then visualize the obstacles:

  • You visualize an eventuality: this is where we’re working towards.
  • You recognize your current state: this is where we are today.
  • You discover obstacles: this is what is currently in our way.
Lead With Purpose: Remind Them of the Why

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Culture Code summary:

  • Why safety, vulnerability, and purpose are at the heart of a healthy group culture
  • What makes some organizations more successful as a whole
  • How one of the largest unsanctioned cease fires came one Christmas Eve during WWI

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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