Purpose Eats Culture For Breakfast

19 October 2021

Managing Director of Atosú Leadership Institute, Colm Kennedy, presents his organisation's new programme.


“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Viktor E. Frankl quoting Friedrich Nietzsche

Peter Druker famously said 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast'. Today 'Purpose eats culture for breakfast'. As the world moves on from the pandemic the competition to attract and retain talented people has never been fiercer. This is a critical moment for leadership. In the USA analysts are calling it “the great resignation”. Like never before, people are questioning their model of working and the companies they work for. Many are asking fundamental questions. Why am I doing this job? What’s my purpose? What’s the purpose of this company or organisation? The old leadership model of command and control from a centralised location is broken.

Purpose is different to vision. A clear vision is valuable. It provides energy and direction. Purpose defines the step before vision. The Why of the organisation. Why are we doing what we do?”. Clear purpose is sustainable; it comes from a deeper place. When it comes to a fork in the road, the invitation to travel the path less taken, purpose trumps vision.

The pandemic brought the New York restaurant industry to its knees, but top Chef Daniel Humm appealed to a higher purpose to beat his own creative burnout and come back stronger. Eleven Madison Park re-opened as a vegan restaurant where one dinner also means five meals for the food- insecure.

“It’s time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community,” says Humm.

US accountants KPMG ran a campaign asking employees to describe what they do in terms of organisational purpose. Thousands replied with stories such as ‘I fight terrorism...by helping to stop money laundering’. KPMG later won the No.12 spot on Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for, with huge returns in retention and fulfilment.

Bank of America aligned its customer operations people to a deeper sense of purpose with a clear and simple guiding question: what will make us better as customer operators? Excellence became a destination and employees followed with energy and agency. So much so that when asked to take on new processes for resolving customer issues, the operatives said no, and shone a light instead on the operational failures that necessitated call centre inquiries in the first place.

All of this is why we set up Atosú Leadership Institute. In November we will be hosting a series of three 90 minute seminars to be delivered by the University of Michigan’s Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Their revolutionary work on meaning, purpose and performance featured on the cover of the July 2018 Harvard Business Review. In March we will be running an in-person programme from our base in central Dublin. If you’d like to know more, download the brochure here or drop me a line at hello@atosu.ie


Photo by Cats Coming from Pexels


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