Are you a mercenary or missionary?

Are you a mercenary or missionary?

Are you a mercenary or missionary?

Dec 15, 2022

Generated on MidJourney

Generated on MidJourney

Generated on MidJourney

What kind of CEO are you?

In John Doerr's book, "Measure What Matters", John Doerr uses the terms "mercenary" and "missionary" to describe two different types of employees: those who are driven primarily by financial incentives and those who are motivated by a passion for the company's mission and values. I'd like to take this a step further, to also describe CEOs and brands.

Know yourself

The phrase "know yourself" is often attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and is part of his philosophy of self-awareness. This quote encourages individuals to look inward and understand their own thoughts, beliefs, and motivations. The idea is that by knowing oneself, one can lead a more fulfilling and virtuous life, as one is able to make more informed choices and avoid acting in ways that go against one's values or beliefs. In other words, "knowing oneself" means having a clear understanding of one's strengths, weaknesses, desires, and values, and using this knowledge to guide one's behavior and decisions.

Why does this matter?

When mercenary leaders attempt to build missionary brands, it may be a marketing ploy rather than a reflection of their true values. This can create a disconnect between leadership, employees and even customers. Here are 4 reasons why mercenary CEOs may struggle or fail:

  • Short-term focus: Mercenary CEOs may prioritize short-term gains and financial performance over long-term growth and sustainability.

  • Lack of vision: Without a strong sense of purpose, mercenary CEOs may struggle to articulate a compelling vision for the company and rally employees around a common goal.

  • Decreased employee engagement: Mercenary CEOs may not be able to inspire and motivate employees, leading to decreased engagement and commitment.

  • Reduced innovation: The focus on financial performance can stifle innovation and risk-taking.

  • Reputation damage: Companies led by mercenary CEOs may be seen as lacking integrity and may suffer reputational damage.

But businesses are meant to make money…

You might say, "Aren't all businesses driven by financial gain?" For the most part, yes. But there are things like B Corp certification for instance.

B Corp is a certification for businesses that meet certain standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corps are for-profit companies that use business as a force for good, balancing the pursuit of profit with positive impact on society and the environment. Here's a few B Corp companies you've probably heard of: Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, Allbirds, TOMS and Warby Parker.

You don't have to be a B Corp to be a missionary brand, though it shows a high level of commitment. There are other ways to demonstrate you and your brand truly are purpose-driven. Here's a few to consider:

Clearly define and communicate your mission statement: A purpose-driven brand should have a clear, concise mission statement that outlines its purpose and goals. This statement should be easily accessible and communicated to customers through various channels, such as your website, marketing materials, and social media.

  • Align business practices with values: Purpose-driven brands are not just about words, but about action. Align your business practices with your values and demonstrate your commitment to making a positive impact in the world.

  • Collaborate with like-minded organizations: Collaborating with organizations that share your values and mission can help you make a bigger impact and build a sense of community around your brand.

  • Engage customers in your mission: Encourage customers to engage with your brand and become a part of your mission by providing opportunities for them to get involved, such as volunteering or supporting a specific cause.

  • Practice transparency: Being transparent about your business practices and operations helps build trust with customers and reinforces your commitment to your purpose.

  • Invest in sustainability: Purpose-driven brands should prioritize sustainability and work to reduce their environmental impact. Consider incorporating sustainable practices into your operations, such as reducing waste, using renewable energy, and promoting eco-friendly products.

Have a mission, but missing the mark?

Are you a purpose-driven company whose brand is not clearly communicating it's mission? Maybe you're struggling with how your purpose is communicated across different channels, externally and internally. Everyone you talk to loves the idea of your mission, but sales are flat and you've yet to gain traction. Let's chat.


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