November 20, 2023

2 Principles of an Inspirational Leader: Purpose and Engagement

2 principles of an inspirational leader

Simon Sinek argues that great leaders and organizations, regardless of their field, start by clarifying their purpose, their “why,” and conveying it authentically to inspire others. Purpose is one of Daniel Pink’s three internal drivers creating intrinsic motivation (along with autonomy and mastery). But how can an inspirational leader identify and communicate to their workers what the true purpose is for a company? Isn’t the purpose of being in business simply to earn a profit?

What Is Purpose? And What Does It Do For A Company?

I speak with leaders in Vietnam who struggle to develop “engagement” within their workforce. Engagement can be tricky to measure, but they know they want it. Engagement cannot be developed by simply creating more fun at work, nor by working to develop a friendlier work culture. People become truly engaged with their work when they wake up and look forward to the day because they believe in the purpose of the organization.

So why would your workers feel so excited about going to work? It is not for the free lunch or great coffee. An inspirational leader must make their workers believe that the purpose of the company is above and beyond profit, market share, growth, and bonuses: whatever can easily be designed into KPIs and rewards. This is also above and beyond Mission, Vision, and Values (which are an important start). The purpose is the rallying cry that jumps from their hearts and makes them go the extra mile without even thinking about it.

How Do You, An Inspirational Leader, Create Your Company’s Purpose?

A real purpose is not a slogan. A company’s purpose is not created by the marketing department to put on the company website. A true purpose is typically not defined by the CEO after a glass of wine. Leaders often can state why THEY are excited to go to work, but not so often can they state why their people are excited to go to work.

I find the best way to really create a purpose statement that resonates is to start with a review (or creation) of Mission, Vision, and Values. This typically requires an off-site workshop with key staff who are hoping to help the company grow. Once an agreed/refreshed MVV is clear in their minds, push a bit more. Explain that Vision is where we are going, but Purpose is why we are going there.

The leader should not state their proposed purpose statement and then ask for comment. This only shuts down creativity as people fall in line with the boss’s great idea. A facilitator is often a great resource for this type of workshop as they can allow the leader to stay silent and come with no preconceived ideas. The goal is to push each participant to explain what really excites them about their work. Push past the great co-workers and great boss. When one person takes a step in the right direction, ask them to go deeper: “Why so?”

With enough encouragement, finally, one person (often the quietest in the room) will say something with a special excitement in their voice, and you will see them start to smile when they describe what they love most about their work. If you are lucky, you will see a tear in their eye. And the rest of the group will start saying “Yes!”. This will be the start of the real purpose and a bit of wordplay will develop the spark into a full purpose statement.

You will know you have the right purpose statement when the wording rolls off your tongue. You will know you have the right purpose when you can share it with the rest of your staff, suppliers, and customers and they all understand you immediately.

Having the right purpose will bring like-minded customers to your door. They want to buy from a company they can relate to. The right purpose will also bring you the right new employees because workers are longing for a place to work where their efforts really matter. And lastly, the right purpose will keep your staff engaged and wanting to stay with your company because it feels like the place they want to be.

By Dr. Bob Connolly, General Director, Crossroads Vietnam Co, Ltd.

Here at Crossroads Vietnam, we provide Leadership and Management solutions to businesses, in the form of Consulting, Workshops, and Leadership Coaching services. Our industry experts, with 18+ years of working and teaching experience, will help you apply the best Leadership and Management Principles for Innovation and Mission – Vision – Values to your business. Book a meeting with us here: