Leading with Noble Purpose How to Create a Tribe of True Believers

Lisa Earle McLeod

Wiley, 2016

Reviewed by Gillian Kernaghan, MD


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As leaders in health care, we have refocused our vision, mission, and values on why: why do we need to improve quality and safety for those we serve and those who serve? The answer inspires people to greatness, as it captures both the heart and the mind. With that in mind, I was intrigued by the title of this book: Leading with Noble Purpose. Noble is defined in the Oxford Living Dictionaries as “Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles” and “Of excellent or superior quality.”


Lisa Earle McLeod is writing more to for-profit businesses, challenging them to find what she calls their “noble purpose,” as it is crucial that every member of an organization understand the services it sells and is living the purpose. She describes noble sales purpose (NSP) as in the service of others (noble), based on what you actually sell (sales), and your end game (purpose).


She says that the NSP answers three big questions: How do you make a difference to your customers? How do you do it differently from your competition? On your best day, what do you love about your job?


The author cites many examples of businesses that achieved great success by inspiring employees and leaders based on an NSP. She also describes good organizations that floundered when they either lost sight of or did not define their NSP.


According to McLeod, the NSP is your North Star. An effective NSP describes your desired impact on your customers, is a jumping off point for strategy, defines expected behaviour, and provides a lens for decision-making. Top


She quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”


We spend a great deal of time at work, and leaders have an obligation to inspire employees based on the vision and mission of the organization. A noble purpose leader is one whose actions, policies, and culture align around the impact they want to have on customers. The leader must choose who the customers are and how the organization wants to affect them.


Although written for businesses, this book is a good framework to remind us in health care about the importance of anchoring what we do in a noble purpose. Given our mandate and roles, it should not be difficult to find our North Star. The challenge inherent in this book is what we do with that. Does a noble purpose fundamentally inform how we interact with our patients? Does it inform our strategy? Do our values and behaviours align with it and, more important, do we hold people accountable to them?


Given the changing health care systems across the country, this book challenges us to ask such questions and speak about them to ensure that we never lose sight of why we are here and who we serve. We can inspire leaders, staff, and physicians to greatness if we find our noble purpose and then live it.



Gillian Kernaghan, MD, CCFP, FCFP, CCPE, is president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care, London, Ontario. She is also a former president of the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders.


Correspondence to: gillian.kernaghan@sjhc.london.on.ca