Inspiring Success Through Purpose-Driven Leadership

Purpose Driven Leadership

We all know the drill with the oxygen on airplanes: in case of emergency, when the masks drop down, you’re supposed to help yourself before helping others. The same can be said to apply in business – through the concept of purpose-driven leadership. Today we’re joined by Lan Phan, CEO and Founder of community of SEVEN, an intersectional, purpose-driven executive leadership development program. Here, she explains:

  • Why the best leaders are servant leaders
  • The process behind purpose-driven leadership;
  • The importance of values alignment with your organization; and
  • How placing emphasis on stakeholder good rather than shareholder good can lead to long-term success!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


What Makes a Good Leader?

  • At its essence, leadership is about influence. 
  • Leadership doesn’t just apply to business, leaders can be found within homes, communities, and other types of organizations.
  • The best leaders are servant leaders - the main goal should be to serve, whether those being served are your customers, employees, or society as a whole.
  • A good leader will also help to create more leaders.
    • “Nothing will kill a great employee faster than watching their leader tolerate a bad one.”
    • Good leaders make those around him or her better.
  • Another aspect of good leadership is the creation of structure and process that helps people find success. 
    • Doing this takes innovation and being to look ahead to the future to anticipate what people will need to be successful. 
  • A good leader is the first to give credit and the first to take blame.


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The Evolving Definition of an Ideal Leader

  • Traditionally, the ideal leader would meet their short-term and long-term numbers and would show success through profit margins and promotions, etc. - but as leaders evolve, they should begin to realize that long-term success and upkeep of the mental health and wellbeing of their team is the true measure of an ideal leader. 
  • An ideal leader will also allow their people to win, so that the organization can win as a whole. 
    • Team members should feel the joy of success just as much as the organization should.

Purpose-Driven Leadership

  • The idea behind purpose-driven leadership is that it is not about the individual, it is about the team.
  • A focus on shareholder good (making profit and hitting that quarterly number) has historically been the norm, but with purpose-driven leadership, stakeholder good (understanding everyone/everything that the operation and product of the organization affect) is the focus. 
    • Just because an organization is profitable does not mean that it will be successful in the long run or that it has a superior product.
    • Customer loyalty and retention rate do not stem from profitability.
  • When placing emphasis on stakeholder good rather than shareholder good, long-term success becomes much more achievable because both customer and employee loyalty and retention rates will rise.

The Process Behind Purpose-Driven Leadership

  • Purpose-driven leadership is all about living your purpose, which is more than just a fancy mission statement on your website.
    • Living your purpose molds everything that you do day in, and day out. 
    • Your purpose is what you and your organization place above everything, including profit.
  • It's how a business and it’s leaders act at every step of the supply chain - from your vendors, to your marketing campaign, to how you treat your employees.
  • Patagonia is a great example of a company that employs purpose-driven leadership and lives their purpose each and every day. 
  • In order to become a true purpose-driven leader, it is not just good enough to know your purpose and values, you must live them.
    • There are two simple ways to make changes to become a purpose-driven leadership organization:
      • Add things that serve you and contribute to whom you want to become as well as your purpose
      • Subtract things that don't serve you

Stop Shrinking Yourself to Fit into Places You’ve Outgrown

  • Ms. Phan shared an insightful post on LinkedIn recently that echoes the sentiments of what it means to be a purpose-driven leader with the quote “Stop Shrinking Yourself to Fit into Places You’ve Outgrown.”
    • Boiled down, this idea stems from the fact that people often live by someone else’s definition of success.
    • In essence, her quote means that we should stop placing so much emphasis on what other people think of us and believe in your purpose, not someone else's'. 

Value Alignment

  • A big part of living your purpose and living your values is understanding what is important to you.
    • To truly be purpose-driven, there needs to be alignment between your personal values and the values of the organization that you work for.
    • Without that alignment, it will be impossible to follow your purpose and values.
  • When you're aligned with what your values are, your decisions in terms of who, who you work with, who you partner with, who your clients are, and more is all informed by those values.
  • This alignment between you and your work should be present before the job is even accepted.
    • It is nearly impossible to change the entire essence of an organization, especially if it is one that has been around for a long period of time, but it is possible to change little bits and pieces of it for the better.

Aligning Your Team

  • Once you have your values and purpose down and you have found the organization that aligns with those values, now it is time to build a team that has the same or similar values.
    • This process starts from the beginning, with the people you choose to hire as a purpose-driven leader. 
    • Retention is also an important aspect in this process because it is not uncommon for organizations to keep toxic managers who do not fit the purpose-driven leadership mold simply because they perform well analytically within their function. 
  • Training is also essential in creating the ideal team. 
    • Providing the right structure and plan for your team members to not only follow the organization’s purpose, but to also follow their own respective purpose will lead to a better, more successful team overall. 

community of SEVEN

  • community of SEVEN began out of pandemic layoffs like many other businesses have, but unlike others, it involved hiring back the team Ms. Phan was building at Fortune prior to the layoffs. 
    • The name “community of SEVEN” came from the five employees Ms. Phan had previously hired, her daughter, and herself.
  • The mission behind the organization was to help others to get through the pandemic and to build a community online.
  • Today, about six to 10 million people per month visit community of SEVEN online seeking inspiration and motivation.
  • There are two parts of community of SEVEN:
    • Membership community
      • Core community: This is an invite only membership consisting of C-suite executives, including CEOs, presidents, founders, and other types of change makers that meet monthly in curated groups.
        • This group goes through a one year process that is accountable for making sure that you actually live your values.
      • Supporter membership: This membership is $99/year and provides training, sponsorship, and consulting that allows members to embrace purpose-driven leadership and become change-makers in their personal and professional lives. 
    • Corporate training and consulting
      • This training for corporate clients consists of coaching circles, mindset training, and community building to help others become purpose-driven leaders and create an environment of psychological safety.
  • community of SEVEN believes that their members’ purpose aligned with core values is going to shape organizations, industries, and society.
  • community of SEVEN also offers free, open to the public micro-learning opportunities called “Let’s Talk”.
  • You can learn more about community of SEVEN here.

Lan Phan Background


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