Being More Than a Brand, On Purpose

Posted on 11/09/2014

A set of employees riding arrowsCompanies are increasingly aware that their brand is bigger than the products the company sells. In fact, per Edelman’s Carol Cone, who has done extensive research on purpose driven business strategy, a full “86% of global consumers expect business to place at least equal emphasis on social interests as on business interests.” The same holds true for executives who lead these companies.

An executive’s personal purpose typically aligns with the business they lead in some way, whether directly or tangentially.  This personal purpose, however, is bigger than their role as an executive. The digital age allows an executive to connect on purpose more broadly and with greater impact than ever before.

We see the pronounced value of this connection in employees and customers from the Millennial generation who now make up roughly a third of the workforce. This generation grew up with computers; speed-of-light news; and the ability to search for any information in the world with Google. Transparency and giving back for the greater good is so common to them that it is unthinkable to operate any other way. Per Forbes, 81% of them have donated services, goods or money to charity. And this generation will make up 75% of the workforce before 2025. Add to that a full 89% of them expressed increased likelihood to buy from companies that support solutions to social issues. To that I say bravo, as they will make the world a better place as a result.

Putting this all together, executives are now a new type of celebrity.

Some great examples include Howard Schultz of Starbucks who built a company around the joy of experiencing great coffee. Schultz though was not only someone who was all about great coffee; he firmly believes that people should have good quality lives and that we should do what we can to help each other out. Civility and cooperation permeate all he does from campaigns to help people get jobs; to the benefits Starbucks offers employees; to the urging of politicians to do right by the electorate. His actions show his core value and belief that being good to each other and working together to solve problems can transcend all the things that typically hold people apart.

Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most powerful business people in the world. She is known for transforming companies through superb operations coupled with high quality, rapid growth. She did it at Google and again at Facebook. Sandberg has always stood for more than excellence in business. She firmly believes that women can and should be leaders in business and that they need not sacrifice their career dreams in the name of social norms. Sandberg made that dream a plausible reality for many through her books and lectures as well as in her daily life by redefining the concept of a power couple with her family.

Arianna Huffington built a highly successful media company. She did this at a time in her life when most people would never consider taking such a big leap. One of the best business stories you’ll ever hear is how she started The Huffington Post and how her friends all told her she was crazy because this “Internet thing” is for the young people and she should go back to her books. Huffington pioneered changes in the media and publishing business that are now standard practices. But she has also always stood for more than that. Huffington always wanted the stories, successes and needs of the everyday person to be heard because we all have a voice; have a story. In recent years she has taken up the mantle of personal well-being and has actually made sleep a business topic. Huffington’s crusade has made well-being a right not a privilege for workers.

If you think about it, the executives with the most gravitas and impact on the world by and large all have some higher purpose than their day job and they are not afraid to be vocal about it. The digital age has made it both ok and easier to be open about one’s higher purpose and values. Now an executive can connect with countless people who believe similar things and that is a power that truly can change the world.

What is your higher calling? What do you value in your core? Do you let this come through in genuine ways by what you do and say each day? Do people respect you for who you are not just what you do for a living? If you’ve not let the world know this side of you, give it a try. south sudan Open up a little and you may be amazed at what happens next.

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