Nearly 30 years after its release in 1996, Jerry Maguire is still one of the most quotable movies of all time. Who can forget, ‘Show me the money?
But beyond spawning one of the most famous lines in movie history, the movie is also full of lessons on leading with purpose.
Gartner research has found that the uncertainty of the last few years has acted as a catalyst to elevate personal purpose and values – with people demanding the same sense of purpose and commitment from the companies they work for. Some are calling it the Great Reflection, and a defining feature of this new trend is that people will leave their jobs if they don’t feel their company is taking concrete action on purpose.
The importance of purpose is further backed up by Bain & Company research, which shows that if a satisfied employee’s productivity level is 100%, then an engaged employee’s level is 144% – and an employee that is truly inspired by the purpose of their employer has a productivity level of 225%.
Think of the massive potential that purpose has the power to unlock. It is impossible to fully harness this productivity and potential if leaders do not lead by example, however. Business leaders need to take the reins and show that they lead with purpose. It’s not always easy – but Jerry Maguire can help.
Jerry shows us that leading with purpose is about making shifts.
- The shift from being ego-led to being vulnerable: In the infamous “Show me the money scene”, Jerry isn’t actually asking for money, he’s asking for love. He needed to convince the athlete, Rod Tidwell, to remain a client. It meant being willing to show his vulnerability – which many leaders don’t want to do because they tend to think that to be vulnerable is to show weakness. As renowned Professor Brene Brown who studies courage, vulnerability and empathy so wisely says, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection”. When leaders are able to show that we are human with highs and lows of our own, it invites empathy within a team, and allows people to truly hear and understand each other.
- The shift from ‘boss’ to servant leader – and moving from power hogging to the power of the collective: Leading with purpose is about acknowledging that help goes both ways, and Jerry illustrates how important this is when he asks Tidwell to “Help me, help you”. It all boils down to trust, and leaders need to be able to show that they can ask for help when they need it, and that they can roll up their sleeves, get involved and work alongside their teams. Leaders need to champion their people and let them shine.
The ability to lead with purpose while simultaneously inspiring and empowering people can only come from reflecting on and being clear about what their purpose as a leader is. This is often easier said than done: Harvard Business School has found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose.
This makes the process of finding and articulating purpose – the “why” – the single most important developmental task leaders can undertake. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible for people to identify their leadership purpose by themselves – trusted colleagues or friends act as mirrors and can help them unlock their why so that they can in turn inspire and uplift the rest of their people and build a team so strong that no one actually knows who the leader is.
- The shift from transactional relationships to deep and meaningful connections: Building connections is about rituals – and really showing an interest in getting to know people. Jerry shows us the strength of the bonds he creates with Tidwell, Dorothy Boyd and her son Ray, throughout the course of the movie. I have various rituals that I have forged with my own team over the years that helps strengthen our bonds. We have regular coffee dates that are not work-related, ‘Cook and connect’ sessions where we cook together virtually, and we share our ‘word of the year’ with regular check ins to find out how the word is contributing to the progress we are making.
I believe there are countless lessons we can take from Jerry Maguire on how to lead with purpose – but my favourite ones are:
- Know thy self
- The key to business success is personal relationships
- Listen to your gut
- Confidence always wins – lead by example
- Your cup has to be full before you can fill others
- You have to bring your whole self to your team
- Be comfortable being uncomfortable
- Speak truth to power – your mission statement
Nontokozo Madonsela is group chief marketing officer at Momentum Metropolitan Holdings