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Purpose Revisited

Purpose Revisited

Recently I received a Knowledge@Wharton article, “Should Leadership Feel More Like Love?.” It is an interview with Fred Kofman, Google leadership development advisor and former LinkedIn vice president of leadership.

The word “love”, in the context of business, is a word that many people find off-putting. Love is something that should be relegated to our personal lives, not our professional lives, they say. I get that. But let’s dig a little deeper and think about the meaning of the word and how it applies to the relationships that occupy roughly a third of our waking hours … or more.

The ancient Greeks defined eight different types of love. I believe two of these, philia (friendship) and storge (kinship and familiarity) relate directly to the essence of Kofman’s message. A lead-in quote accompanying the article jumped out at me:

Six-figure salaries and free lattes in the break room are enticing, but corporate workers increasingly are seeking something more. They want a sense of purpose, a feeling of true camaraderie, and a belief that they are having an impact within the company and outside of it.”

I’ve written about this before, in the context of our need for leading a meaningful life, the concept of calling, and purpose-driven employee engagement.

Three words in the above quote pretty much say it all: purpose, camaraderie and impact.

Kofman goes on to say:

“Who you are, the level of trust you inspire in me, or the level of excitement that you are able to light up by proposing a vision of what this might be, is essential to the transaction.

 As the Beatles say, you can buy diamond rings, but you cannot buy love. To compete and succeed, you need people to care, you need something that is much more like love than a diamond ring. In the times of the assembly line, well, just go there and do your station work, and we don’t care if you like it. There are time and motion studies that say exactly what you are supposed to do, and that is all we need.”

 I believe his message aligns well with the Greeks’ concept of friendship, kinship and familiarity.

Kofman cites studies [uncorroborated here] that indicate an average employee engagement level of an abysmal 30% in the US. In his interview with Knowledge@Wharton, he doesn’t offer solutions to deal with the current situation wherein, as he says, companies are “fighting the last war,” resisting embracing a new type of leadership that embodies purpose, camaraderie, caring and, yes, love. However, I’m looking forward to reading his book, The Meaning Revolution, which you can order here, to learn more.

Now, I’m sure I’ll get pushback on this topic. But maybe, just maybe, there are some powerful lessons we can learn from Kofman’s counsel. Share your thoughts with me … I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Mike Cobb