Leadership is the ability to influence change, and not a question of position in a hierarchy. To drive strategy, create value. To build connections across silos and bring people with shared purpose together.


A shared purpose leadership style transforms it to one of respect, trust, and collective intelligence.



According to Professor Lynda Gratton, shared purpose across the organisation and mobilise people’s energy – this can be heightened through crafted language use and storytelling. And she has described leaders as ‘architects of shared purpose’.

Fostering shared purpose is important; however, the real value comes through collaborative engagement.


In order to engage the full organization in working toward a shared purpose, leaders will need to understand the motivational drivers, namely that people  are driven by task accomplishment, influence, or relationship needs.

Furthermore, they will need to develop a deep understanding of what underlying resistance is and employ the appropriate influence skills to help people overcome it.

An organization without purpose manages people and resources, while an organization with shared purpose mobilizes people and resources.

Let’s face it. You manage by habits. Not conscious of the mechanics. Like automata, dictated by interactions  – meetings, email exchange, etc.

But the actual thinking and acting patterns are non-conscious, invisible.

As it is often the case, here is the manager who has a solution set in his mind. And the employee who has to guess this best practice solution.

With Shared purpose a new employment relationship is formed that opens up a corridor for meaningful interaction without guessing. It sparks their curiosity, and enables employee development on a daily basis. A daily way of creating and reinforcing a shared culture; a sense of “we.”

Shared Purpose Leadership

In the traditional compliance-oriented leadership style, command and control was forced through centralized, top down decision-making and rules. Corporate Communications, IT departments, and rigid processes controlled what people said and did, allowing no space for for personal initiatives.

Traditional leadership styles are often characterized by people turning to the managers above them to resolve issues or set the direction. Changes were communicated through memo, where dialogue is limited, and not constructive.

Overall, top-down approaches undermined accountability, empowerment  and inhibits building problem-solving capacity and a culture of learning.

But today, in our  constantly changing, and transparent world is out of place. The problems with this kind of compliance-oriented leadership style are three-fold:

  • undermines any efforts to create an empowered staff
  • inhibits building problem-solving capacity.
  • limits accountability and a culture of learning

There’s a major shift under way in the nature of relationships that individuals have with organizations.

The top-down communication is defunct.

As a result, more and more organizations are shifting from traditional hierarchal structures to flatter structures with open workspaces to foster better collaboration and faster decision-making.

A shared leadership style transforms it to one of respect, trust, and collective intelligence. Developing work processes and procedures that respect each other’s personal and professional goals, while supporting the organization’s overall purpose.

  • Nurturing Consensus and Leadership
  • Contributing Valuable Perspectives
  • Re-Aligning Roles
  • Building mutual Respect and Trust that result in increased engagement, productivity, and innovation.
  • Sustaining Change: staying on track when unanticipated implementation hurdles  arise.
  • Unlearning Old Routines and Practices creating high performance cultures in the process

Also known as adaptive leadership, middle-up-down management, distributed leadership, or servant leadership, these approaches have several common attributes: investing in empowerment, seeking input, collective ownership, and transparent decision-making processes.

Communication should constantly reinforce the shared purpose and highlight why it is important.

Building a shared purpose culture begins with a common language: the “We” rather than the “I”.

Today people are looking for organizations that have a purpose broader than just making money. Rather than viewing profit as the primary goal of an organization, progressive leaders see profit as a byproduct of success.

Effective leaders actively develop shared  purpose across the organisation and mobilise people’s energy, through compelling storytelling.

Leaders draw people into a shared sense of purpose by creating a distinctive, well-crafted and compelling vision of the organisation’s future. An organisation’s purpose should be at the heart of its vision and strategy. Both vision and strategy need to be grounded in clear goals to be achieved and employees need to understand how their roles contribute to delivering those goals.

According to Geert Hofstede, one of the pioneers of Purpose and organizational culture.  Shared Purpose by definition leans towards the “We” rather than the “I”.

The sense of “we” starts with the leader.  

Leaders are accessible, seek out opportunities to learn from employees, and believe knowledge is developed and embedded throughout the organization; employees have a common language and are developed to have a common understanding of the business and a quick, effective way to set directions;  communication is transparent; employees learn from and support each other, examining what goes wrong to fix it; and there is a formula for everyone sharing in the company’s success.

Shared purpose is based on trust.

A shared sense of purpose means priorities are clear; politics have less impact on decision-making. People are working in the same direction and can be trusted to make decisions.

Meanwhile, according to Jane McConnell at NetJMC:  “there is not enough trust inside organizations. Many leadership and management practices are such that people find themselves with little control over their workplace, in competition with each other and, in general, feeling they are part of an “us versus them” dynamic”.

According to Joel Kurtzman, in his book, Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve the Extraordinary, shares stories for companies like Apple, Google, IBM, who have created shared purpose, involving a sense of “we,” are healthy and functional organizations, and enjoy financial success.

Common purpose is a quality of leadership that creates a value proposition and  immense impact in an organization’s culture.

When an organization has a shared sense of purpose among the employees and the leadership there is a much more unified understanding of why the organization exists in the first place, and what ultimately matters at work.

High-performing organisations have a strong sense of shared purpose. That leads to high levels of employee engagement.

So how do leaders make this happen?

Here are a few guidelines for engaging a workforce and embracing a collaborative sense of shared  purpose.

Smart leaders know how to listen.

Good leaders know how to inspire their employees to believe in their leadership.

Great leaders inspire their employees to believe in themselves.

Alignment between the company culture and the shared company values is essential to ensure that strategies are productively implemented.

In other words, everyone needs to speak the same language regarding values to assure that they are upholding the same perspective on company purpose.

Shared purpose vision creates the link between the present and the future.

Defining an organization’s vision is not always easy for senior leadership to do.

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in an article for Harvard Business Review, “To Lead, Create a Shared Vision,” revealed that  leaders struggle with the most is “communicating a shared view of the future that draws others in.

Kouzes and Posner’s research also revealed that “being forward-looking, envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future, is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders.”

As Jack Welch, Chairman, General Electric said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

The vision and goals that shape the strategic objectives must have quantifiable measures to gauge how well employees are contributing through their work to organisational success. Employees can monitor their contribution to achieving outcomes that support the organization’s vision and goals.

Shared Purpose helps employees see that the company’s success is their personal success.

Get to Know Employees on a More Holistic Level

A lot of life happens outside of the workplace, yet such events can have a tremendous influence on how people act and react within the confines of the workplace.

Understanding what motivates employees in their lives outside of the workplace gives leaders a better perspective on the dynamics of company culture.

  1. Stand for something authentic, and aligned with the company’s core business beyond profits
  2. Operationalize purpose throughout the organization from culture, to KPI’s, product development, distribution, marketing and community engagement
  3. Integrate purpose into your hiring mechanisms
  4. Identify purpose driven workers and accelerate them on a high-potential trajectory
  5. Infuse real and compelling purpose into brands

One thing is certain.

People want to be acknowledged that they matter.

Also, people want to know their contributions are noticed.

Building a company with a shared sense of purpose allows everyone to be a part of a winning coalition.

Once shared purpose is agreed, ways of working that reflect it also need to be agreed.

Systems for coaching, mentoring learning, development, research, innovation and evaluation need to be established that enable shared purposes and values to be embedded in everyday activity.




Leaders can draw employees into a shared sense of purpose by creating a compelling, realistic vision of the company’s future, and provide ways in which the company can achieve it.

When employees agree with the trajectory of the company, then they will be more willing to embrace effective strategies to meet established goals.

According to Dr. Jim Harter, Chief Scientist, Workplace Management and Wellbeing for Gallup’s workplace management practice, high-performing managers check in with employees on a regular basis (as often as weekly or daily, depending on the job) and formally discuss progress and development semiannually.

If the conversations are primarily strengths-based and useful to the employee’s development, Gallup research indicates they are more likely to engage than disengage employees. The ongoing conversations enable the manager and employee to discuss work in the context of changing organizational objectives and, where necessary, reframe expectations based on the ongoing needs of the business and customers.