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The Road to Purpose-Inspired Leadership

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Roy Spence: How do you build a high-performing culture? Here are six rules that leaders should passionately believe

How do you build a high-performing culture? Here are six rules that leaders should passionately believe.                                   

1. Purpose Rules

I have discovered in business or in life that envy is perhaps the mother of all weaknesses. Why? If you try to be like someone else or your competitor, the best you will ever be is a “worse them.” So instead, always focus on being a “better you.”

However, you can’t be a better you if you don’t know who you are. So, the first lesson I learned on the road to purpose-inspired leadership was that leadership teams in organizations or companies —whether in the private sector or public sector — must be passionate about discovering and bringing to life the core purpose of the organization and that purpose must drive everything.

That purpose can and will be both the anchor in the stormy times of chaos and the North Star when the skies are clear. The purpose of your organization is why you exist. Three examples of powerful purpose-driven organizations are:

Southwest Airlines’ purpose: To give people the freedom to fly.

GE Aviation’s purpose: To invent the future of flight — to lift people up and bring them home safely.

Loews’ purpose: To help people love where they live.


2.  Employees Come First

Almost 50 years ago, the most purpose-inspired leader I have ever known, Herb Kelleher, co-founded Southwest Airlines. And he was on a mission to democratize the skies. When Southwest began, only 15 percent of the American people had flown. Herb liberated the skies and now almost 80 percent of the American people have flown.

His anchor and purpose-inspired ideal was that his employees always come first — even before the customer or the shareholders. You take care of your employees first and they will then take care of the customers and then the customer will take care of the bottom line. Amen Herb.


3. Doers and Dreamers and No In-Betweeners

Even before discovering Gallup StrengthsFinders, I always deeply believed that in public schools, businesses, government and in life … purpose-inspired leaders in all sectors are the ones who must champion the ideal of people who are “playing to their own strengths.”

I call it the marriage of the doers and the dreamers.

The dreamer can see the top of the mountain but doesn’t know the best way to get to the top. The doers can’t visualize the top of the mountain but can show you every step of the way to get there. The in-betweeners think they are great at both … show them the door.


4. Always Fess Up When You Mess Up

One of my best friends in the world was my next-door neighbor and my pastor at Riverbend Church here in Austin. Gerald Mann was also a preacher — goodness could he preach motivational common sense. This one was his: Fess up when you mess up. Purpose-inspired leaders do not play the lame blame game. They fess up, take the heat, dump the garbage and move forward on their purpose and mission.


5.  Practice the Golden Rule

The real one. Not the one that says, “He or she who has the gold rules.” No. Purpose-inspired leaders treat people with respect; they thank them for being them, they listen and understand. And, yes, they do take a stand if purpose, values and ethics were violated.


6.  Create the Future — Not Predict or Whine About It

This one is rare. Creating the future is a talent a person is born with and it is perfected over a lifetime. It’s a calling that rejects gossip, mean-spirted vindication, self-anointed soothsayers and most importantly, a calling whose purpose is serving the greater good. Whether it is the greater good of a company or country or a county or city.

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About Roy Spence (Full Bio)

Co-Founder and CEO of The Purpose Institute

Roy Spence is Co-Founder and CEO of The Purpose Institute, a consulting firm that helps people and organizations discover and live their purpose.