Thought Leadership and Purpose
This long-term vision placing people and the planet at the heart of business decisions is purpose.
What role does the company/leadership team want to play in society now and in the future in terms of its positive impact on society? What are the values that motivate the company and its leaders? These questions have to be answered to clarify your purpose. It is not easy but it has to be done, right from the start of the company’s existence.
What are some of the necessary ingredients?
Listening to the market and society, your collaborators and partners, customers and other audiences to understand both how to position yourself in business terms but also how to respond to society’s overall needs and requirements is essential. There are various types of listening and analyses, from the more traditional surveys to focus groups and one-to-one interviews. Understanding how better to match your business object to your long-term vision is essential to developing a long-term positioning strategy.
Successful companies, and their leadership teams, are collaborative: they are transparent about sharing their objectives, strategies and results with their collaborators. They can operate in a complex ecosystem and can dialogue and exchange ideas. Therefore, the traditional pyramid hierarchy must give way to horizontal teams that both work in their specialisation areas but are also kept abreast of their co-workers’ activities and also intervene and listen to other people’s opinions to ensure constant improvement. This is the only way to increase empowerment and create a climate of multi-directional trust.
You never stop learning. You study and learn throughout your life. A job for life no longer exists or the possibility to specialise in just one thing for ever. People involved in start-ups are well aware of this: if one idea does not work, you try another and then another. If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again. And even when you are successful, you can’t rest on your laurels but must continue to refresh your skills, to have very cross-sector skills to best respond to the constant rapid change. You may sell your business and go elsewhere, or start again from scratch. Or you may even run several businesses, benefiting from all the activities you carry out in terms of mindset and networking, learning from everyone and putting your new skills to use in all the areas you work in.
A company cannot exist without inclusion. Inclusion & Diversity encompasses a wide-ranging culture of equal opportunities. Lip service is not enough: you must act and do it well. You can’t simply have employees of different ethnic backgrounds or sexual orientation, half women and half men. Inclusion is the ability to attract and retain people who differ from each other, who represent the most varied points of view: ethnicity and sexual orientation, religion and disability, personality and age, background and education, etc.. You must be able to listen and create diversified work teams that can interpret, for instance, local, religious, generational, values and emotional viewpoints to enhance each team member’s talent and to make each person feel not just important but essential.
There is no company that does not care for the environment. Environmental sustainability has to be an integral part of business and not a secondary consideration. Each individual business activity must be considered in the context of protecting the planet. And we can go beyond this: the start-up’s product or service may contribute to protecting the local area and the environment, and then, than ever, the business strategy and the environmental sustainability strategy intertwine to become one.
This must also be true of people and society: each business activity must be considered in the context of protecting and enhancing the value of the individual; moreover, the product or service may be of use to society and then the business strategy and the social sustainability strategy become the same thing.
The success of leadership and the company lies in communicating these principles to the internal and external stakeholders, with a short and long-term structured communication strategy that considers the value of the content, the ability to listen and dialogue and a multi-channel approach based on clear objectives and targets.