Image credits: GETTY IMAGES (MARTIN BARRAUD)
The great organizations I know have missions with purpose.
I suspect that somewhere in their evolution, someone stepped forward to challenge or lead those organizations in ways that now make a difference for others. A unique and worthy mission was established.
That person, most likely, was its leader, a servant leader.
Mission is a powerful tool when it is seen as worthy. Mission gives direction to a leader’s vision and sets goals that reflect an organization’s highest calling. The pursuit of mission can validate a leader’s good character and inspire the commitment of employees who are so vital to achieving that mission.
Mission itself, by definition, implies service. Today, our nation’s leaders should serve worthy missions as they encounter adversity in a tumultuous world or reap the vast opportunity in science and technology.
Ironically, and to an alarming degree, leaders are valuing worthy mission less and less. Top priorities are on making money, attaining a bigger bottom line or protecting self-interest. Predictably, a sense of goodness is being lost in how business is conducted.
Take my field, healthcare. I often hear people ask what good is the investment in science if many of its benefits or cures are so costly that they can only be accessed or afforded by relatively few?
The need for servant leaders
I believe we need more mission-driven leaders — servant leaders.
Servant leaders are people who want their life’s work to produce more than just wealth or influence. Servant leaders seek meaningful work. They will find or create missions that make a difference and then lead their organizations to further those missions in ways that live on beyond their tenure.
They also understand that mission is the guiding force behind their leadership and the best tool to manage resources (human and other) and change.
In my observation, the sincere pursuit of mission can create a special connection between a servant leader and employees. Mission gives the purpose that fosters natural teamwork and employee commitment to mobilize any kind of critical change. It doesn’t matter if change is from vision or from crisis, it will be managed.
Leading with character
Mission and servant leadership are intertwined and interdependent. Without mission, servant leadership wanes. Without servant leadership, mission is easily lost or difficult to sustain.
In the absence of mission, servant leaders will stagnate or leave because there is no other reason to serve more than themselves. In turn, without servant leadership even a great organization with a great mission will slowly decline. As mission draws less and less attention and yields to a focus on self-interest, objectives become internalized or monetized and the goodness in its mission becomes secondary and suffers.
In my view, servant leaders who are passionate about mission are the most effective leaders and are people who are remembered for their integrity and impact on others.
Be a servant leader. Protect your business’s worthy mission. Let it be the destination that guides your leadership journey to make that difference. You will have led with character.