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Managers need to develop and convey a strong sense of purpose that aligns their work with the goals of their unit or department and the university. Purpose can be a driving force for an organization to achieve its intended results. But most importantly, purpose forms the backbone of great managers.

Purpose is not a goal to be set or something you create. It is not some “great idea’ you come up with. It is something you discover. It is an inner compass that points us in the right direction. We nurture our purpose by exposing ourselves to new opportunities. Like defining the mission statement for your unit, it can take some time and reflection to find what feels right. It is an exciting process of discovery that shouldn’t be rushed.


The questions below will help you reflect on your purpose:

  • What do you believe about yourself?
  • What is your belief about your potential as a manager?
  • What do you feel passionate about?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What are your talents?
  • What type of work inspires you?
  • What specifically appeals to you about that work?
  • What experience do other people get from you?
  • What’s the impact on them when they’re with you?
  • What acknowledgements do you get from others?
  • What excites you about the experience you give others?
  • What are three things you would like to accomplish in the next year, five years or ten years?


The purpose is the larger “why” in your life. Managers know why they do what they do. They are driven by a belief. Without belief, they will never be able to achieve the results they desire.

Values are the guideposts of purpose. Understanding what is important and what gives meaning to our life helps us find our purpose.

Managers instil purpose through their words and actions. Their communications demonstrate a commitment to vision and mission, but their behaviors underscore its real importance. What a manager does is more important than what he or she says.

Managing at Ohio State is about getting results and creating a positive culture. Managers are responsible for 1) contributing to / directing successful efforts to further the university’s goals, and 2) leading by example in living the OSU values and manager behaviors.

Inspiring Purposeful People

Find ways to make your organization’s purpose tangible to all employees. That is, link it to their job functions and tasks. Make the connection between what an employee does and how that work contributes to the organization’s purpose.

Ask yourself:

  • Have I shared with my employees how their individual roles and our work as a team connects and contributes to our organization’s purpose?
  • What do I do to honor the spirit that my employees bring to work every day?
  • How well do I show my appreciation to my team?

Create a culture of recognition that is timely and meaningful. Find ways to show employees that you and the organization truly care about them as employees.

Instill confidence throughout the organization. People want to believe in a manager who believes in them. Find ways to share that confidence with others.

In its simplest form, the purpose is the organization’s reason for being. It is a combination of vision, mission and values.

  • What is our vision – what do we want to become?
  • What is our mission – what do we do now?
  • What are our values – what are the behaviors we expect of ourselves?
  • What do we want to be known for?

Answers to these questions will provoke thinking and discussion. Defining purpose, if one does not already exist, is an exercise in leadership. It is the way an organization comes to grips with how it sees itself. Purpose points people in the right direction so they can achieve results for the organization, for the team and for themselves. Challenge employees to find purpose in their own work.