The more uncertain the environment gets the more we need a purpose

We probably don’t need to convince anyone that the market environment we work and operate in is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. What does it mean to win in this context? How to prepare yourself and your organization to execute, outperform and succeed in the future? This is where the purpose comes in as a key enabler. 

During our leadership programme sessions we tend to gather a healthy mix of business representatives as well as attendees from the non-profit sector. We offer the participants a unique experience of the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment where under a huge time pressure they are tasked to leverage their leadership, foresight and strategic capabilities to find new ways of leading and winning self and others. It’s always a truly transformative experience and typically one of the main discoveries is related to the PURPOSE.

Over the course of our programme, we always find surprising how much business can learn about the role of the purpose from non-profit organizations. For non-profit leaders the answers to questions like “why do we exist?”, “what value do we contribute to the mankind?” are critical. Living and breathing the purpose is their modus operandi, the reason for taking any activity and an overarching justification of their existence. From the business leaders’ perspective having a purpose seems to be a ‘nice to have’ statement that is not connected to their core activities i.e. making profit. It is more of a marketing slogan or a technique to engage different stakeholders rather than a meaningful sense of direction.

There is also an interesting geographical (or historical / political) dimension of how a purpose’s role can be perceived. Having a clear purpose doesn’t seem to high on the agenda of leaders from post-communist economies like Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine. Compared to their peers from the Western Europe or Asia, the CEE representatives demonstrate a distinct reservation to clarifying their high-level WHY, as if they were holding a disbelief. Where does this skeptical attitude come from? That’s probably a topic for a different story (or a series of those).

Let me also highlight a simple principle (which we also notice in the course of our programme) – the more uncertain environment the more people need a purpose. It provides a direction that we call a “the north star”. If purpose is missing or forgotten, the leaders are likely to panic, become reactive or turn into default habitual mode and make mistakes. They are just unable to achieve expected results and get frustrated.


On the other hand, the leaders who have a clear sense of purpose, demonstrate a totally different approach to tackling challenges. If they face an obstacle, they are creative, resourceful and confident to find new ways. They are also able to step back from the habitual track of doing things and are willing to make more strategic choices.

Convincing business people that having a purpose will make them more successful in their roles is not easy. Fortunately, when confronted with non-profit organizations, they are likely to discover the value of a conscious approach to what they do.


Marta Dratwa-Wasylek, Partner at Fluent