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The One Question Every Successful Leader Can Answer


The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to keep your company successful? is written by Jackie Yeaney, EVP of strategy and marketing at Red Hat.

Never, ever lose sight of why you are in business. This goes deeper than the notion of providing better products or services to a particular type of customer or market. I mean the true ‘why’ you exist in the first place. What would the world lose if your company was no longer here? For us at Red Hat, we exist to bring the power of open source innovation to the enterprise. If Red Hat were gone, thousands of companies would be scrambling to figure out how to harness the benefits of open source, while still maintaining reliable and secure IT infrastructure environments.

I’ve discovered that by being laser focused on your company’s purpose, you are continually engaging with emerging communities of developers who are innovating and experimenting. You aren’t just trying to incrementally add features to existing product lines. Sometimes I get asked how it is that the market tends to shift in Red Hat’s favor when many of the market evolutions appear difficult to predict. The truth is it’s not by accident—our purpose drives us to look forward, not back: continually searching for how open source can propel companies. It’s a tricky balance of curating innovation for the enterprise while still contributing back to the long-standing communities to continue momentum in our core products, but is well worth the energy.

See also: Why Setting Goals Is Overrated

Additionally, we have thousands of Red Hatters who believe they are a part of something that’s more than delivering software. It emotionally empowers them to solve problems together; to come to solutions quicker; to strive for the best answers. Staying true to this purpose allows us to adapt quickly and be nimble. Sure – politics, egos, agendas all have the potential to get in the way, just like at any other company. But once we get all those believers (aka Red Hatters) banded together, we can mobilize and execute quickly to compete with companies three or four times our size.

So my advice would be to center in on why your company truly exists. Ensure all your employees understand this and can see their role in making it happen. What is the magic that makes your company tick? Your answer will decide whether or not your company can be successful in a sustainable way.