Americans shared a common purpose on Monday: watching the sun disappear from the daytime sky.
About 12 million people live in areas where the solar eclipse completely obscured the sun, and it’s estimated that as many as 7 million others journeyed to see it. There were tens of millions of more Americans who didn't travel but took time off from work, school, or whatever else they were doing to look up at the sky and view the first total solar eclipse over US soil in 99 years.
When so many people have the same purpose, seemingly unbelievable things can happen; in this case, grinding much of the United States to a halt for several hours on a workday. However, an increasing number of company leaders believe that creating a shared sense of purpose can drive profitable growth, attract talent, improve customer satisfaction, and do social good. “Businesses that prioritize purpose and shared values find better results. Better results happen when everyone is rowing in the same direction, motivated by a common force.” says Elaine Dinos, a principal at Korn Ferry’ and leader of the firm's Purpose Community.
A recent Korn Ferry study shows that purpose-driven consumer organizations grow faster than their peers. At the same time, 90 percent of executives say a commitment to purpose-driven leadership produces long-term financial benefits. An organization’s overarching purpose doesn’t have to be something as grand as “save the world,” or “reinvent capitalism,” as long as it’s something that helps connect what the company does—and stands for—to the broader community.
Instilling that purpose into an organization isn’t as easy as looking up at an eclipse, of course. “Successful purpose-driven leaders connect an organization around a deeper meaning and purpose—the “why”—and then they are relentlessly focused on their people deeply connecting to the organizational purpose from their own unique place of who they are,” Dinos says. Purpose-driven firms hire people who share the same values, invest heavily in their development, and treat them humanely. Importantly, purpose-driven firms are transparent in their actions and communications to employees, customers, investors, and all other stakeholders.
Creating a purpose-driven organization won’t create the immediate sense of awe as a total eclipse of the sun will, but its positive impact on a firm’s growth and community could last for far longer.