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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois Leadership Competencies: Interpersonal/Team: Common Purpose

Effective leadership requires working with and influencing others to achieve common goals and shared vision. Leaders need to develop skills for building personal, authentic, and productive relationships.

What is Common Purpose?

A shared "we"


A leader is someone who facilitates conversations within groups to agree upon goals and tactics, and builds a sense of commitment from team members.

Common purpose is much more than just shared goals and purpose within a company. Common purpose comes from within each individual, and gives each of us a direction for our work. When leaders develop purpose, their employees are happy, energized, and focused.

Common purpose instills unwavering trust, belief, commitment, and unity for all involved in an organization. Common purpose also guides future priorities that a team can easily and willingly follow. This section offers resources on finding your own leadership purpose as well as cultivating common purpose among your team members. 

Books on Common Purpose

TED Talk "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek

With over 30,000,000 views, Simon Sinek's TED talk is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time. And for good reason. The simplicity of his argument, "people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it," emphasizes that purpose is the most crucial component of any goal, product, or organization. Using examples such as Apple, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Wright Brothers, Sinek reiterates that "why" brings loyalty, trust belief, and eventually, success. According to Sinek, "We follow those that lead not because we have to, but because we want to." Only when you start with why, you can truly inspire others to believe in you.

Inspiring Web Articles

These articles discuss an important aspect of purpose: it is personal. Whether it is the purpose of an individual, team, or entire organization, purpose must come from within. As a leader, cultivating a sense of purpose in an organization can be difficult, but by helping employees find their own purpose within the organization, creating goals and direction that people can follow, trust, and believe in, will be the cornerstone to a successful organization.