EPI Blog Series: Why Activating Your Purpose Strengthens Social Capital
Updated: Sep 2
MAXIMIZING SOCIAL CAPITAL
For leaders who maximize social capital, these words evoke an emotional response, and when you are fully invested in helping others succeed, you will find ways to avoid missed opportunities. There is a simple way to remind yourself to bring your best to every leadership opportunity.
Close your eyes and reflect on a critical meeting. Remember what it was like to be in that moment. You're in a conference room with business owners, a virtual meeting with key stakeholders, or one-on-one in a coffee shop. You are engaged because you recognize the need for action. You know it's time to move forward. It's one of those fork in the road moments. It's a decision that could spark focus, strategic actions, and accountability.
But will it? Are you prepared to lead at your best?
Stay with your memory a little longer. Turn your attention away from the people in your meeting and visualize an empty chair. If your memory was a virtual meeting, imagine a vacant box on the screen.
In our experience with thousands of leaders, most meetings like yours have an empty chair, a vacant box on the screen. Too many leaders lack a significant contributor, and the absence is costly. They forgot to invite purpose to the meeting. They don't get a call or a text explaining why purpose didn't show up. They failed to invite purpose, and the effects will reverberate into your future.
Purpose is much more than a goal or a plan. Social capital connects humans. Purpose strengthens those connections. It inspires trusting relationships, collaboration, and complex problem-solving. Purpose humanizes leadership by connecting actions and decisions with powerful aspects of core identity. It will guide and align your efforts with a more profound sense of who you are and how you lead and communicate at your best. The best decisions are made when purpose sits at the head of the table, hosting the meeting. When purpose is present and active in your decisions, you're on the path to strategic greatness.
CONNECTING PURPOSE & ACTION
You might be thinking about teams or organizations with highly visible expressions of purpose. Perhaps you remember seeing statements of vision, values, and mission. It has become commonplace to see slogans and statements displayed on websites, walls, even printed on everything from pens and paper to vehicles and coffee mugs. Yet, the contribution will be minimal until a personal sense of purpose is internalized. When does your purpose pull up a chair and provide positive accountability for your words and actions?
No one tells a medical doctor that health doesn't matter. Leaders dare not say that purpose is unimportant. Yet, just as our physical symptoms provide health information, your day-to-day behaviors say something about your purpose. Two leadership paths exist. One path strengthens social capital, and the other diminishes what could be. Ranjay Gulati distinguishes between these two paths:
Deep purpose companies thoroughly embed their purpose in their strategy, processes, communications, human resources practices, operational decision-making, and even culture. Sadly, such enterprises are quite limited in number. The vast majority of companies practice what I call convenient purpose: They talk about purpose but act on it only in superficial ways.
Are you focused or busy? Proactive instead of reactionary? Strategic instead of fighting fires? Leaning in to listen to what matters most rather than being pulled away by the noise? Before investing time and energy, check for the empty chair. Let purpose speak first.
Your purpose will illuminate your best leadership. Often, leaders avoid discussions of purpose to focus on the work, decisions, or business at hand. However, this isn't always the most effective way to do things, especially in a world constantly chasing after the shiny new toy or putting out the subsequent fire.
The importance of constantly looking to purpose in discussions or meetings comes from the clarity it brings to everyday challenges. Without looking at purpose, goals slide down the pecking order, movement starts to stagnate, and decision-making is harder to come by because there's nothing fueling direction.