There is a consensus among business thought leaders that organizations must focus on more than just profit to be successful. A growing body of research shows that both employees and customers are more loyal to leaders and organizations that have a compelling higher purpose.

Unfortunately, most leaders have no way to act on this knowledge. According to HBR, 50% of corporate managers distrust their company’s vision. According to Gallup, 67% of U.S. workers over the age of 18 are not engaged in their work. (The global number is much worse at 87%.) The resulting disengaged employees cost their companies lost work days, productivity, health care costs, customer loyalty, higher turnover, and ultimately, profit. And global efforts to increase engagement via traditional means are having no measurable effect.

This crisis of engagement affects leaders, too. Many executives drag themselves to the office day after day, dreading the enormous workload and non-stop meetings. Subordinates seem to never live up to their potential, and exciting plans and initiatives never quite pan out the way they were supposed to. The title and paycheck that seemed like a triumph begin to feel like a hollow victory. The lifestyle that has been built around the career dictates a continued flow of money, so there seems to be no escape from the grind.

The path out of this bind is simple: find your individual purpose. This will not only give you more passion and meaning in your role as a leader, it will also inspire and motivate all those who work for you. And if you expand beyond your individual purpose to your organization’s purpose, you can use it to inspire and motivate potential customers, clients and investors.

What Is a Purpose?

As we use the term, a “purpose” is the “why” of a leader’s life. It is the meaning that underlies all of your activities. It answers the most fundamental questions, like:

Why am I here?

Who am I meant to be?

What am I meant to do?

These questions are often treated as imponderables, questions that defy answering. This is not so. For each person, these questions have a unique and specific answer. Knowing the answers to these questions can guide you to a life of vision, meaning, productivity, and success. Leaders who are clear about their purpose easily inspire others. They transform organizations and bring out the best in their subordinates. They lead people towards a compelling vision, creating extraordinary results along the way.

When Is It Time to Find My Purpose?

Finding your purpose is a journey of transformation. It challenges your sense of who you are. It probes at the reasons for the things you do. Finding your purpose is a serious endeavor, one that may impact your life in ways that are difficult to predict. It is natural to have concerns, reservations and skepticism about the process.

But there must also be a drive, a compulsion to know. This drive is usually the result of one of two situations:

Many leaders have a strong curiosity about their purpose when things are going fine. You may have a sense that everything is working, but that there must be something more. You may be looking for a way to take your leadership and your organization to the next level. Many of the most successful leaders seek out growth and transformation for their own sake, rather than as the solution to a specific problem.

Alternatively, you may find yourself concerned and upset about the lack of meaning your life provides you. You may be considering changing jobs or careers, hoping to find something more compelling. You may be concerned that continuing along your current path will leave you wishing your life had had more impact. You may be thinking about the legacy you will leave behind.

In some cases, this state of angst is accompanied by turbulent circumstances. You may have been fired from a leadership position, and be scrambling to find the next opportunity. You may be been diagnosed with a disease. You may be in a divorce or have recently lost a loved one. If these circumstances keep you up at night wondering “why,” it may be time to find your purpose.

In either case, the common element is this: you have a strong sense that there must be more to your life, and you have a powerful urge to find out what it is.

These days, many leaders have a simple understanding of their purpose (or their company’s). In this case, the urge is to update their purpose and make it more powerful and specific. If your purpose hasn’t been revised in a few years, it has probably begun to lose its potency.

The Purposeful Leader process reliably produces a clear set of outcomes. These outcomes are designed to equip you to be a more powerful leader.

  • A clear sense of purpose

  • One or more purpose statements derived from connection to your inner wisdom

  • A clear decision and plan for implementing your purpose in your life

  • Greatly increased intuition that results in better decision-making in a wide variety of circumstances

Once you are clear on your purpose and have decided how to integrate it into your work and your life, the path forward becomes clear. Decision-making is greatly improved, showing you which strategies and approaches are most likely to bear fruit. The doing of life becomes an expression of something deeper and more meaningful, leading to more fulfillment, more clarity, and a sense of being part of something larger. This expanded perspective is highly engaging and inspiring to others, causing them to want to be a part of it.

Once you become a purposeful leader, you can then explore using the True Purpose® process to find the higher purpose of your organization. This greatly expands the impact of purpose on your employees and customers.

Guest post by Tim Kelley, founder of the True Purpose Institute