While many business leaders recognize the importance of a common purpose for creating a healthy corporate culture and enhancing business performance and reputation, YPO member Ammar Charani, author of Purposehood: Transform Your Life, Transform Your World and founder of Purposehood.org, has taken the concept a step further. A personal near-death experience triggered the Syrian-born, U.S.-based global entrepreneur to re-examine the meaning of life, identifying the concept of purpose as a core part of what makes work, and life in general, more fulfilling for human beings.
His book and his organization is based on hundreds of academic research studies and experiments to understand the impact of having a purpose in life, as well as his personal experience spending 10 years with Sufi masters and religious scholars, studying, teaching and subsequently serving as a cleric. He has also drawn inspiration from his 30-year experience as a serial entrepreneur, starting and seed-investing in more than 30 businesses, four of which are with YPO peers.
Here are some insights from Ammar to help leaders and organizations live their existential purpose.
Recognize crises as gifts for transformation
Ammar says, “Transformation is often instigated by a major crisis. Crises, in general, are gifts because they help us let go of our way of thinking and behaving. This is equally true for individuals, businesses and communities.”
These crises initiate transformation because, according to Ammar, you start doubting the vision you may have had of your existing life or your business. “You also begin doubting the limiting beliefs you had and the habits that led to the situation. That opens the door to transformation, a process that consists of three things: a forward-pulling vision that unleashes your true potential; empowering beliefs that replace limiting ones; and habit-forming practices that fuel these beliefs to help you learn how to grow and see reality from a different angle.”
Begin with re-thinking your personal purpose
For business leaders looking at ways to begin creating a purpose to drive sustained business growth, Ammar explains that exponential business growth starts within the leader. “Take time to reflect and find your own personal life purpose. Existential purpose or purposehood is not an objective-setting exercise. It is a re-orientation toward a positive future, your role in existence, and an overarching goal that relates to your deepest fundamental desires,” he says. “Why do you exist and what does the world need from you? Developing this existential purpose allows you to move forward and unleash your personal potential.”
Ammar adds that once leaders realize the role they are meant to play, everything changes. “Once you value your existence, then you start experiencing life with great intention and direction. You can become a true leader, helping your co-workers discover their own life purpose and unleash their potential.”
The next step, according to Ammar, is to align your purpose and teams with the purpose and objectives of the business, helping answer the questions: Why does your company exist? What value does your company bring to the world? Is the business selling products and services or bringing something bigger to the world, a lasting benefit to the society or the environment?”
Re-examine your definition of leadership
Ammar often asks business leaders to question their understanding of leadership. “The definition of leadership can lead to disaster or to amazing change. If it is about making the most money to a shareholder, this will set in whole chain of events that is different to unleashing the full potential of every employee.” His research has shown that true leadership can be summarized in the latter, namely unleashing the potential of others. “I refer to this kind of leadership as selfish-altruistic. Selfish altruism means doing selfish things for altruistic reasons and altruistic things for selfish reasons.”
Transformation is often instigated by a major crisis. Crises, in general, are gifts because they help us let go of our way of thinking and behaving. This is equally true for individuals, businesses and communities. ”
— Ammar Charani, Founder Purposehood.org share
Using language like selfless and servant leadership is not something Ammar is fond of. “The only leadership that is sustainable is selfish-altruistic leadership. If a mother is always selfless, at the end she will break down. The same applies to a completely selfless business leader,” he says. “I also believe that authentic leadership is not an accurate term as your authentic self might not be a fulfillment of your full potential. It’s often a reflection of limiting beliefs and expectations of others.”
Draw the line of sight toward a shared vision of humanity
His experience being part of a global network of CEOs from all over the world has allowed him to witness power of a shared future vision, beliefs, and practices. “My YPO journey has been, and still is, an important part of my life. It has greatly influenced my philosophy, including my hope of one humanity working together for a better future,” Ammar says.
While researching for his book and engaging with business leaders has demonstrated the impact of the philosophy in the business world, Ammar has also witnessed firsthand the power of purpose within the wider community, including counselors, aid workers in refugee camps, clergy and any one in a position of helping others.
He adds, “I have found individuals in their teens and 20s who have a higher purpose are often more optimistic, hopeful and suffer less from anxiety, loneliness and depression. The importance for adolescents to have a purpose in life is even more profound during these uncertain times as it has shown to provide them with more resilience and well-being.”
Through a purposehood framework, spearheaded by business leaders, he is confident of a better future. “A new vision of the future will ultimately arise where we can work together as one to tackle the existential crises that are in front of us, including climate change, destruction of biodiversity and widening social and economic inequality,” says Ammar.
YPO members can check out Ammar’s virtual workshops here.