Leading with Purpose: Culture and Performance 

What do leaders from local government, banking, professional services and a football club have in common? They’re all operating in high pressure organisations under public scrutiny and having to respond to ever changing external pressures. Four leaders from these sectors shared their perspectives at the Humanity in Business Purposeful CEO Summit.

How do leaders keep their teams motivated to perform and remain aligned with the purpose of their organisations? Leaders from Deloitte, Bendigo Bank, Inner West Council and Adelaide Football Club spoke about trust and resilience as they key factors to connect people to purpose.

Building trust is the road to purpose

When people are able to be vulnerable, they can be authentic, they drop the ego and they work to overcome shortcomings in performance and attitudes. People will render themselves vulnerable if there is trust, and trust comes from safety. It was discussed just how vital this responsibility is for leadership.

How do these leaders achieve this?

  • As many touchpoints for people to check in on purpose is vital, because trust is created through relationships.
  • They don’t mistake managerial control for leadership. The difference is developing a deep understanding of your people and understanding what makes them tick – at home and at work.
  • Adelaide Football Club worked with players to get them to think about what legacy they want to have to connect them with purpose.
  • By focusing on trust, Inner West Council went from being one of the ‘worst councils in NSW to winning the Bluett Award.

Resilience and purpose

In a year when Australian banks are facing a Royal Commission and public trust in business is at an historical low, how do you motivate people to feel a connection to purpose when they work in that industry? Not easily.

Bendigo Bank explored with some of its teams what role regulation plays in their sense of purpose. They asked themselves the question: if the regulation wasn’t there, how would they conduct business? The ambiguity isn’t easy, but it let people working for this company remember that they do perform a vital community service.

Through shared value initiatives, and a solid commitment to CSR and giving, Bendigo Bank was ranked 13th in the world on the Forbes list of businesses doing good. The takeaway from this was that resilience will come across the organisation when all employees understand the business’ wider purpose.

At Deloitte, one of the pillars building resilience is wellbeing and an individual sense of ‘why’ that connects to the business purpose. Sal Algeri reflected that partners at the firm are being challenged to lead by example on resilience and invest in themselves and a healthy body and mind.

The business case

The dialogue on trust comes full circle. All speakers acknowledged that creating a bedrock of trust and respecting the individual and diverse needs of the workforce means providing opportunities for employees to express and connect with purpose. This connection can be enabled through giving, volunteering, cross-organisational connection, learning and development, and investment in time for wellbeing.