To successfully lead major organizational transformations, executives need to align purpose, performance, and principles within their companies. Doing so isn’t easy — and requires mastery of a wide range of leadership skills.
In recent years, we have come to believe that it is increasingly important for business leaders to learn how to build companies that are simultaneously purpose-driven, performance-focused, and principles-led. We developed this point of view from two quite different perspectives: One of the authors is an academic and adviser to C-suite executives on building enterprise leadership capability, and the other is an executive, board member, and CEO coach who, as CEO and president of Ford Motor Co. from 2006 to 2014, led a successful turnaround at that company.1 (See “About the Research.”)
At a time when the pace of change in business is faster than ever, we believe that building organizations with these three characteristics is no longer a choice. Being performance-driven is clearly essential to success; continuous disruption, rapid technological innovation, and turbulence require that today’s leaders build agile organizations with resilient employees in order to achieve superior performance.2
But focusing on results alone is not enough. Demographic, cultural, and technological changes have led to a workforce that demands a set of operating principles characterized by core values such as transparency, trust, inclusion, and real-time collaboration to help guide behaviors and decision-making in companies.3 Finally, studies have shown that millennials are deeply motivated by corporate social responsibility and a compelling sense of purpose.4 Together, these forces make the case that companies that fail to aspire to align purpose, performance, and principles will also fail to attract the best talent. Furthermore, to achieve the kind of transformations that today’s fast-moving economy often requires of businesses, executives need engaged, committed employees who have opportunities to contribute their knowledge. Purpose and principles can help engage employees in support of high performance.