More businesses today are seeking to infuse profits with purpose to bring meaning to work, attract purpose driven employees, and create lasting connections between companies and those they serve. But what is “purpose”? William Damon, a Professor of Education at Stanford University and author of The Path to Purpose, describes purpose as “a long-term, forward looking intention to accomplish aims that are both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.”

Engaging with Purpose

Companies leading with purpose are making the choice to make an impact bigger than themselves. This requires the full engagement of leadership and employees, taking action and making decisions in alignment with the organization’s stated purpose. It comes to life in the stories people tell, the bonds created between employees and customers, and influences the belief system of the company. In so doing, the organization’s purpose then starts to become the collective identity and culture of shared values and norms that bring people together.

Navigating Change

With today’s continuously changing world, the most important action that leaders and companies can take to bring people together is to create a shared purpose and live this every day. Done consistently, striving toward common, meaningful goals naturally aligns the organization over time regardless of where everyone starts. If, as Professor Damon suggests, purpose is a long-term intention that impacts both the individual and the world he or she inhabits, then every organization seeking to make an impact beyond itself must align its purpose with needs of its employees and customers to manage change and shape the future.

Purpose is the lighthouse that helps people navigate together and make it through the storms of change successfully.