Our work is a great mission. Those without it are missing a key to life. If you don’t have a mission right now, you need to get out there and find one you believe in. Without it, we’re all lost. We’re adrift. The Mission is something we rally around. The mission gives us strength and guidance and determination. The Mission gives us something to believe in that is larger than ourselves. The Mission gives us something to contribute to and to work at each day. We need the Mission as much as we need exercise or food and water for energy. It is a psychological and emotional need. The Mission drives purpose. The Mission drives people.
Elon Musk gives his people a driving mission at Tesla: to build zero emission cars and batteries people love with sustainable energy. Now, that’s a statement smart people can rally around. And they do. Musk knows that super smart people are driven by more than just money .They need to be solving difficult problems they believe in solving with other A players. They need to make a difference in their work. They need to feel a strong sense of contribution. They need an overarching Mission to rally behind when things get difficult.
Powerful missions unite people and attract top talent. Apple’s been making exceptional consumer electronics for decades, and it all started with Steve Jobs’ desire to make a dent in the universe with people who believed in his vision and mission to make the best electronic products in the world that people loved to use. Jobs was so keen and so devoted to his vision and mission that he ended up creating a cult of users who would use nothing else. Ever. He rallied top talent and attracted them to Apple to execute on his designs, bringing beloved electronics to markets worldwide. Jobs’ vision permeated Apple so deeply that his ethos continues in the company years after his passing. That’s Mission and vision. That’s giving people something to believe in that is larger than themselves. That’s a focus on contribution and enriching the lives of others. Top talent is attracted to other top talent. And top talent wants to go where the group feels valued, appreciated, and where it can make the biggest difference. Powerful missions offer them just that when they’re set forth by a visionary leader.
We need something to get behind and rally. We need a strong vision with a Mission to get us up and out of bed in the morning. What are you helping to solve? What is it that you’re working on that makes the world better? Who will be improved by what you’re working on? What else can you do for these people that will help to set you apart from everyone else?
Our projects are derivative of vision. The who, what, and priorities we set all come from the direction of the ship. We need our projects to align with vision or else the ship becomes adrift in the wrong direction. We’ve all been in situations like this where the company we’re working for seems to be going in the opposite direction we desire it to go. Some of us get off the ship and try another one, in another direction. Others choose to stay and fight. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here because each context is different. It depends upon numerous factors. Typically, it boils down to do you still believe in the company’s mission? Does it still ignite you and make you act? Do you still believe in what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with? If yes, then you should likely stay. If no, then that, too, answers your question.
Leadership is powered by vision. If you’re a leader or aspire to be one and you don’t have a vision, you’re not quite in the game yet. You need to know where you’re going, and be able to communicate it to others so clearly and consistently that they come to see it for themselves. They also need to believe in it. If they don’t believe in it, it will negatively affect their work and the work of others. They have to believe in it and talk about it like it is their own. The team either is on board with the Mission or they are not. It is up to them. The more clearly they understand it, though, the better off everyone else is. It is leadership’s job to make sure everyone understands where they are and where they are going. Where are we headed? What’s next? What’s coming up for us? When we encounter obstacles, what do we do? People need assurance that leadership will be there when difficulties arise. A strong vision and the ability to communicate its qualities should help assure everyone in difficult times.
Steve Jobs was crystal clear in articulating his vision and where he wanted to take Apple. He told everyone in the company — regularly — about their mission and where they were headed. Even when it was difficult or they felt Jobs was being mercurial or unfair, there was no doubt about what he saw and the direction he felt they were headed. It came naturally to him. Then, he would take his vision and share its direction with others outside the company. This is what we see. This is where we’re going. We’re creating the future right now. These power statements attract top talent. Who doesn’t want to create the future right now? Who wants to know with 100% certainty their work makes a difference in the lives of others? Who wants to be a part of a shared vision so keen that it attracts people to it from around the world? Who wants to enrich lives through building fabulous products people want? Jobs had it and expressed it to anyone who would listen to him. The vision drove him to make Apple the best at what it does. Nothing took higher priority to Jobs than expressing this.