MIT Sloan Management Review Article on A Noble Purpose Alone Won't Transform Your Company

  • 13m
  • Amy Edmondson, Rob Cross, Wendy Murphy
  • MIT Sloan Management Review
  • 2019

Leadership behaviors that nurture interpersonal collaboration are the true drivers of change.

It’s a common misconception, both in businesses and in management articles and books, that a sense of purpose is what matters most when it comes to engaging employees. Many leaders concerned with attracting and retaining top talent believe that nothing motivates people as much as the larger good they might be doing or the chance to change the world. Accordingly, they extol the higher virtues of their companies’ missions and the meaning of the work they offer.

But our work with more than 300 companies over the past 20 years, particularly our research using organizational network analysis (ONA) and our interviews with executives, reveals that purpose is only one contributing factor; the level and quality of interpersonal collaboration actually has the greatest impact on employee engagement.2 In this article, we’ll explore why collaboration has that effect and which behaviors you can adopt and practice to nurture it.

About the Author

Rob Cross (@robcross_ona) is the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College and founder of the Connected Commons, a research consortium of 80 leading global firms. Amy Edmondson (@amycedmondson) is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. Wendy Murphy (@wcmurphy) is an associate dean and a professor of management at Babson College.

Learn more about MIT SMR.

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  • MIT Sloan Management Review Article on A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company