Do Great Leaders Focus on Profit or Purpose?

In his iconic book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek argues that leaders and organizations need to put more focus on their “why”— their purpose and the impact they are uniquely called to make in this world. He explains that this is how to gain a competitive advantage, attract and retain great talent, and take your workplace engagement to the next level.

But here’s the thing; when I think of great organizations that once inspired me because they were so clear and committed to their purpose, their mission and their “why” –– organizations like The Body Shop and Tom’s Shoes – they all ended up going bankrupt or selling out.

So you have to ask yourself the question, “Can you be a purpose-driven business and still be an industry leader?”

The answer is yes…IF…you pursue profit and purpose as a packaged deal.

Focusing on profit leads to growth, opportunities, job creation, and healthy competition. But when you over-focus on profit to the neglect of purpose, engagement goes down and staff feel like they are just a cog in a wheel.

Focusing on purpose allows your business to be a source for good in the world and attracts and retains great people who take real ownership. But when you over-focus on purpose to the neglect of profit the sustainability of your business becomes jeopardized, and jobs and opportunities start to disappear.

Profit and purpose work best when they are working together!

How effective are you at focusing on both profit AND purpose? Think about the past season. I bet you’ve been hanging out in one of these four places:

MicrosoftTeams image

Regardless of where you currently are, the goal is to spend more time in quadrant four. To make a living AND make a difference.

Remember, finding healthy tension between profit and purpose doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by choice. And when leaders and organizations choose both profit AND purpose, they gain a competitive advantage.



Team Activity

Engage your team in this conversation so that you are aligned and committed to getting all the positive results of both profit and purpose.

  1. Start by having them read this article.
  2. Next, work through these worksheets at your next meeting or event. This can be done in person or virtually.
  3. Begin to tap into the power of healthy tension between making a living and making a difference.


Good luck and have fun!

Tim Arnold

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