According to Gary Baker, although many leaders recognize the importance of a clear sense of purpose, there’s often a gap between that belief and the actual implementation of use within their organization. At the same time, they fail to acknowledge the actual “cost” they are paying.

In a company without purpose, people have only a short-lived idea of what they are supposed to do. The lack of direction and long-term commitment gives employees nothing to believe in.

HBR’s The Business Case for Purpose Report notes:

“Although 90 percent of executives surveyed say their company understands the importance of such purpose, only 46 percent said it informs their strategic and operational decision-making.”

Many leaders are missing out on the full potential of a higher purpose within their company.

Some of the top hindrances leaders and corporations cite as barriers to a clear sense of organizational purpose include:

  • Short-term shareholder pressure
  • Lack of alignment with long-term value creation
  • Lack of emotional resonance and insufficient buy-in across organization: Lack of clearly defined culture, value systems communicated clearly from top leadership and management
  • Lack of meaningful metrics, performance targets and incentives aligned with purpose
  • Lack of behavioral alignment among leadership and management

Shared purpose case study: KPMG

KPMG provides a great case study in purpose as showcased in HBR.

The accounting firm recently made employee engagement an organizational priority. As they began their work of articulating their higher purpose, one big challenge was clear — the need to do more than just announce the purpose but rather to create opportunities for employees to connect emotionally with this purpose and experience it fully themselves.

They created opportunities for people to share their stories about the impact of their work.

Giving people a chance to talk about the meaning of their work unleashed positive energy in the workplace.

Every employee from receptionist to consultants to the people in the mailrooms shared their personal purpose that tied to the company’s overall purpose in some way.

The outcome was impressive and also made employees realize and appreciate how interconnected they all were in KPMG’s mission to serve its higher purpose.

90% of respondents in the company’s annual partner survey reported that the higher purpose initiatives had increased people’s pride in KPMG.

Additionally, KPMG’s improved morale boosted them up 17 spots on Fortune magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list, making them the number one-ranked Big Four firm for the first time in company history.


Leaders will face significant challenges on the road to defining its shared purpose that truly informs strategic and operational decision-making.

KPMG, cites challenges like overcoming an academic focus and breaking through message clutter.


Yet, the potential benefits are powerful and make the pursuit worthwhile.

Increased employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profits are just a few of the benefits that can lie ahead for leaders and companies willing to journey toward a higher purpose.

Higher purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will.

With purpose, a company creates positive value that is far greater than the sum of its parts.


According to Gary Baker, a higher purpose is the single most distinguishing reason for the existence of an organization and the impact it seeks to make in the world.

High performing companies are built from the purpose up and shared purpose is used as driver of strategy, a recruitment tool and a way to make a difference in the world.