Purpose//

The Role of Purpose in Creating A Common Identity

Rosabeth Kanter on how inspiring others gives her energy

The idea of inspiring others to do more than they thought they could has always thrilled me. I live to observe the triumphs and challenges of people and organizations grappling with change, getting vicarious satisfaction from deep learning about the factors that help other people become leaders. Early in my career, I was fascinated by utopian visions of possibility and outraged by discrimination and exclusion, or by just plain neglect. I was often the first or only woman in my field, so I learned to slough off discouraging voices and cultivate my own inner pep talks. I was a professional with technical skills, but my main outlet was writing – books such as Men and Women of the Corporation, The Change Masters, Evolve!, Confidence, and MOVE, among others – which led to speaking, teaching, and consulting, building a business along the way. A sense of purpose and meaning kept me going through later bumps in the road, as a cause larger than myself propelled me to persist and get my ideas heard. I worked with numerous companies and saw the role that purpose played in creating a common identity and collective definition of success beyond just financial success, which made the purpose-oriented companies sustainable even while chaos swirled around them. I co-founded the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard to ensure that purpose and meaning are central through the life cycle. This program for experienced top leaders transitioning to their next years of service encourages people to tackle big problems that can make the world a better place. We give them tools, insights, case studies, and access to all of Harvard University – but mostly we keep reminding them of the centrality of purpose. Having found a renewed sense of purpose in later life, and having mingled with students and peers, they discover that the capabilities and sensibilities they bring can truly make a difference. The energy that’s unleashed also fuels my own.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

You Shouldn’t Focus On Getting More Followers. Create More Leaders Instead.

by William Lehutjo
Thrive Library//

The Book that Set the Soul of the World on Fire

by Danielle Owen
Community//

1 Thing You Need To Do Before Winning

by William Lehutjo

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.