In the movie “Elizabeth The Golden Age”, there is a pivotal moment when the young queen faces the reality of what it means to rule, and puts aside the everyday longings and aspirations of a normal woman for the Role of Queen, married to England (see the link at the end). She cuts off her hair and paints herself in white, symbolically renouncing her worldly identity, creating a numinal and archetypal identity – the Virgin Queen. We feel the great sacrifice she makes. She understands her role as queen is to give people something to believe in, something beyond the tangible and measurable reality of an individual, a job description, a deliverable. Stories throughout our history point to truths about our impact on the world. Self-interest leads to hubris, monsters and the downfall of Empires. Stepping into a higher purpose leads to success and glory. Elizabeth reigned for 40 years, steering England out of troubled times and ushering in an time of such unprecedented prosperity and power, it was and still is, referred to as The Golden Age.
Examples from Zimbabwe, North Korea and Enron (as well as a few far closer to home) give us an idea of what happens when leaders or businesses become disconnected from a grounded sense of their real Role, or Purpose, within the world. Like it or not, we will have an impact. And we are at choice about the impact we will have.
In organisations, we connect with the impact of our more archetypal role in the world through an inspiring, authentic and sincerely lived Purpose. Those who have earnestly grappled with defining and articulating their Purpose, know that it’s no easy thing to do. For something typically labelled “fluffy” it’s remarkably difficult to nail down in all its authentic and substantial potential.
A few tips from my own experience for accessing Purpose:
- Purpose (or your Role) exists in a different reality from that of facts and figures, so be willing to enter a different world, for just a visit.
- Avoid the board room table blancmange of the same-old information being recycled – get a different perspective, bring in other voices, ask people for feedback, get a snapshot of what matters internally and externally.
- Reflect on the stories of your organisation’s origin (or your own initial longings and talents) – this is your origin myth. It has untapped power in it.
- Take an imaginary trip into the future of your highest dreams – view the organization from a helicopter view and ask:
- Why does it matter that this business exists?
- How does it contribute to make the world a better place?
- What’s important to me about that?
- What’s important to the world about that?
5. Come back into the NOW and craft this into something that people can believe in and rally around, something that captures the authentic essence of who your organization is and why it matters in the world (sometimes you need the help of a skilled copywriter to release you from the need to nit-pick around words)
6. LIVE it, BE it. (this is the hard part).
Brands and organisations that have an authentic purpose at their core, embedded in their value proposition and culture, can have a powerful impact in the world.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xN_89uynqw). It’s a powerful 6 minutes.
(This article was originally published on LinkedIn)