What’s the difference between your mission and your purpose?

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In its simplest terms, your Mission is the What and your Purpose is the Why.

What you are trying to accomplish versus why you are here to do it.

As you may have gleaned from my homepage header copy, those jargon-filled mission statements are dead and over in my book.

And why is that?

Mission statements don’t require follow through.

They are inward facing and rarely address the problem they are trying to solve. And if there is no stated problem, there are no consequences for a business not accomplishing what they set out to do. The only purpose they have is to sell you something and make money.

To be clear, I am not against making money and a company does need to address what they do. But I do believe that there are a number of reasons why balancing both profit and purpose — the what and the why — leads to stronger organizations.

Purpose-driven leadership

Leading from a place of purpose means focusing on the long-term and the bigger picture. A purpose-driven organization is less likely to get distracted by trends, less reactionary, less likely to get bogged down by outmoded tactics, and can be more authentic and thoughtful in their communications.

What’s more, a purpose-driven business that is vocal about why they do what they do has a more emotionally connected and engaged workforce and customer base.

With the right leadership mindset and support systems in place, the purpose-driven business environment is sustainable, stronger, inclusive and yes, profitable.

The equation for a simple mission statement:

what do you sell + who do you sell it to


The equation for a simple purpose statement:

what do you promise + why do you care enough about this to make is your business?


Mission-driven:

Company A energizes vibrant, purpose-driven organizations by embedding evidence-based people practices into advanced but accessible technologies.

So...what do they do? HR? Consulting? What kind of technologies? Is “embedding” the right word for...whatever it is they do? Who do they do this for?

Purpose-driven:

Company B believes a diverse workforce is a strong workforce. [the purpose] We build software for enterprise businesses [the mission] using research-backed methods to tackle bias [the purpose] and advance the way the world recruits and hires top talent [the purpose].

Company B has just made a promise to follow through with providing a solution for recruitment bias based on the latest research. Company A is motivated by the idea that business has the power to create a stronger workforce and technology can actually help remove some of the negative systemic behaviors in place.

Company B is marking a distinct line in the sand between themselves and their competitors. It’s not by saying they are “the best” (read more about why this is the worst messaging strategy of them all, here) and it’s not by saying they have cutting-edge technology. It’s by telling us why they are committed to solving the customer’s problem. Their dedication establishes trust.

As some final food for thought, Larry Fink, BlackRock CEO and chairperson once said:

“Purpose is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders. Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”

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