The Realist’s Guide to Moral Purpose

Moral purpose is especially powerful when it prompts leaders to take radical steps that others would not take, and thus change the basis of competition in their industries. That is why moral purpose is a critical, if often unseen, element of strategic breakthroughs. A moral purpose can give a company the collective courage and persistence to strike out from the pack.

A moral purpose’s effectiveness depends on its connection to the shared culture of humanity – to the extent that it draws on philosophical ideas that have stood the test of time. At the same time, the fit between moral purpose and strategy does not take place automatically. Company leaders must manage moral purpose and strategy so that they are aligned, so that the nature of the moral purpose helps the firm advance in its environment.

Discovery, excellence, altruism, and heroism represent four sets of ideas, each with its own philosophical roots and long-standing cultural integrity. They are not the only moral purposes that are influential in our culture. But these four are most relevant to competitive businesses today. An effective corporate strategy starts by identifying which of these moral purposes is closest to the company’s strategic intent – and worthy of the investment of the senior team’s attention and engagement.

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