26 August 2017

The Change Leaders Manifesto

The essence of any purpose-led organisation is to recognise why it exists. Irrespective of function, every business on the planet was established to fulfil a need in society—its higher order purpose. Spanning products, services, community and more, purpose incites action and ensures that the people an organisation serves are at the forefront of its focus. 

When I interviewed Simon Sinek in March our conversation anchored around conscious leader burnout—people at the coalface of change in business and society doing extraordinary work, who become disillusioned and give up because they’re all ‘why’ and ‘what’ but lack an essential ‘how’. It highlights a significant and powerful insight—whether for-profit or not-for-profit the very best organisations function like social movements, interdependent and autonomous ‘ecosystems’ that create a deep sense of belonging and value for stakeholders.

From hierarchies to ecosystems

As organisations evolve from traditional command-and-control hierarchies and become more agile and decentralised, corporate culture is becoming increasingly ‘unscripted’. Thousands of HR and business leaders across every country agree. As highlighted by Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, ‘Effective organisations today are built around highly empowered teams, driven by a new model of engagement, and led by a breed of globally diverse leaders. They are “different by design”.’

In this new world, the alignment of organisational strategy with a clearly articulated and co-created enduring purpose is vital. And yet, one of the most common barriers to engagement in the workplace is incongruence of purpose, or lack of clear purpose at all. At the root of this culture crisis conflicting values result in organisational apathy and despondency. Leaders need a new essential set of skills and new way to inspire and mobilise their people. 

Neurologist and holocaust survivor Victor E Frankl once said,

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’. 

A higher purpose strategy for engagement

That ‘why’ is higher purpose—an aspirational beacon that cultivates alliance and enduring value, bringing resolution to complex social and organisational challenges. And yet, in a world where purpose risks becoming catch-cry, the pressure is on for leaders to call BS on hollow corporate storytelling and identify what business are they really in—and authentically engage with their stakeholders to co-create its future.

Do you know what lights your people up?

By clearly defining and aligning your business with a higher purpose that serves the betterment of its community, a vibrant culture can be co-created. At the heart of this transformation is a manifesto

To challenge an often confusing point of view, a manifesto is not a mission statement or a perfectly crafted vision and set of values displayed on an office wall. Wrought through compassion, outrage, hope, competition, and the desire to be more, instead, think of a manifesto as a public declaration of intent that sparks a fire in the belly of all who hear it—aligning stakeholders with a higher purpose that creates clarity and alliance as it is shared, providing vital context for engagement and a deep sense of belonging.

Check yourself

  • How can you and your business affect more lives in more places, more completely?
  • What technological and human skills are required to create a culture your customers love and employees feel proud of?
  • How can you ensure connection with a clear and enduring higher purpose can be maintained?

A manifesto is the catalyst of all great movements

Emergent leaders are the custodians of manifesto—guided by a higher-order purpose that acts as a compass for transformation and growth. Do you know your higher purpose?

If you don’t have a manifesto, let’s create one together.

2 Responses

  1. I listened to a radio programme about Emergence and it brought me to thinking about the potential consequences of a world populated by billions of IOT devices with rudimentary AI and ML

    Leaves you thinking what might emerge and could we stop it. So lots of relevance to your thinking in the current debates around the ethics of AI.

    On a more positive note the Agile Enterprise Transformation challenge is now coming very quickly so your models make a lot of sense in this environment

    Both topics would be a good discussion

    1. Thanks for your comment, Cliff. You raise an excellent point and who knows what might evolve? Certainly good points for discussion, though. I preface in my book that emergence isn’t something we can necessarily manufacture but rather, create the environment and conditions for it to flourish. Which of course raises the question of ethics. In my opinion, managing the tension between autonomy and interdependence is the even bigger innovation challenge, i.e. fear of loss of control, uncertainty, and so on. AI and ML shake things up because (apart from the obvious improvement to scale, speed and efficiency of things) they cause us to contemplate human redundancy… even immortality. I’m currently watching the Netflix original ‘Altered Carbon’, and to be honest while it’s science-fiction and far-fetched, it’s underlying premise of human consciousness being ‘stored and transferrable’ is entirely believable.

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