How can leaders establish and promote shared purpose?

by | May 18, 2021 | Effective Teams, Leadership

In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle shares three skills of highly successful organizational cultures: 

(1) Build safety, 

(2) Share vulnerability, and 

(3) Establish purpose. 

This article is the third installment of a three part series about organizational culture and explores shared purpose. Previous blogs can be found at “How can leaders create psychological safety?” and “How can leaders develop vulnerability?” Organizational culture benefits from being clear about why the organization exists and why that is important. When teams experience shared purpose, they find work more meaningful, they persevere through challenging times, and they understand where the organization is going. 

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In their classic HBR article, Building Your Company’s Vision, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras write, “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world” (para. 1). Thye share several examples of successful companies that have clearly articulated their “core ideology” which consists of two parts:

  1. “Core values are the handful of guiding principles by which a company navigates.” Core values represent what the organization stands for and will not compromise. 
  2. “Core purpose is an organization’s most fundamental reason for being.” A core purpose is not the services or products it offers nor the clients served. The core purpose is equivalent to the “Why” that Simon Sinek refers to in his Golden Circle

Organizations can develop their core ideology as described by Collins and Porras to clearly articulate their established purpose. 

Coyle (2018) suggests the following ways to establish purpose for organizations:

  1. “Name and Rank Your Priorities” – Many leaders struggle to clearly articulate their priorities. Priorities should be a memorable number. Coyle (2018) suggests that many successful teams include “how they treat one another-at the top of their list.”
  2. “Be Ten Times as Clear About Your Priorities as You Think You Should Be” – Leaders need to be intentional about overcommunicating and clearly describing their priorities. 
  3. “Figure Out Where Your Group Aims for Proficiency and Where It Aims for Creativity” – Coyle (2018) breaks down skills into those that require proficiency or “doing a task the same way, every single time,” and those that require creativity or “empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before.” Leaders should communicate whether proficiency or creativity is expected.  
  4. “Embrace the Use of Catchphrases” – Organizations with a shared purpose often have catchphrases that remind the culture who they are and where they are going. 
  5. “Measure What Really Matters” – Leaders must strive to set metrics that align with the organization’s purpose and vision. 

Gallup has studied employee engagement for many years. They have developed 12 questions to measure employee engagement. One of the questions is: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Gallup (n.d) explains the importance of this question: 

“Globally, one in three employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. By doubling that ratio, organizations could realize a 34% reduction in absenteeism, a 41% drop in patient safety incidents and a 19% improvement in quality.”

How well does your team understand their shared purpose? Organizations and teams should spend time discussing and establishing their purpose. Leaders can ensure time is set aside for this important effort. We regularly work with leaders and organizations to enhance leadership and culture. Some of our popular services include leadership coaching and meeting facilitation. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact us


Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1996, Sept.-Oct.). Building your company’s vision. Harvard Business Review. 

Coyle, D. (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books.

Gallup. (n.d.). The Power of Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey.