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The Four Keys to Leading in a Crisis: #1 Purpose

September 22, 2020

All of us are living in the midst of a pandemic, economic uncertainty, and a time of heightened racial tension in our country.

Our lives feel anything but normal as we navigate the challenges of social distancing, adjust to changes in our work, and try to find common ground in a nation that has never felt more divided.

I know. You’ve heard enough about our present crisis, but I think it’s important for us to think about it from a leadership perspective. How does leading look different in a crisis?

When we face the storms of life, the world conspires for us to move in a different direction, but having an anchor steadies us and keeps us from going off course. Over the next four weeks, we are going to unpack four of these anchors—or four keys—to leading well during a crisis season: purpose, perspective, process, and persistence. Today, I’m going to unpack the importance of knowing your purpose.

A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. Without the rudder, you can’t steer the ship. It will blow and rock and glide toward whatever destination the elements take it. 

Your purpose is like a rudder. It gives direction to your life. It’s the reason you get up in the morning, and it’s the thing that keeps your ship moving toward your final destination when it’s being beaten by waves on every side. 

Do you know your purpose?

It’s easy to simply say your purpose is one specific personal or professional goal, but a purpose should be much bigger. Leadership guru Simon Sinek calls this your WHY. He explains that every single one of us has a WHY. It’s “the purpose, cause or belief that drives every single one of us.”

Your purpose is why you do what you do. 

Since I co-founded ADDO back in 2011, our purpose has remained consistent: Inspire people today to impact tomorrow. While that purpose seems aspirational, it’s consistent across all of our work. We take our purpose seriously and work to help other companies do the same. It’s interesting to see how having a clear purpose plays out in the broader business world. 

ADDO is currently working with an international food and beverage company who owns a number of different restaurant brands. Each brand promotes a different feel, offers different products, and caters to different audiences. But each of them are tied to this parent company’s bigger purpose: “To provide opportunities for remarkable people to make a lasting positive impact on our community and the lives of others.” 

As a collective company, their goal is to leave a lasting impact on the lives of others, and each of these different restaurant brands is able to live out this purpose in their own unique context and community of customers.

As a leader, not only do you need to know your purpose, but you need to know and champion the purpose of your organization. You need to be eager and ready to remind others on your team why they’re doing what they’re doing—especially in the midst of a crisis.

So here’s my challenge to you this week: Help connect the work your team does to your organization’s larger purpose. Knowing “the why” makes their daily tasks meaningful and helps them face the obstacles new to their work in 2020 with confidence and courage.


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