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Why 2021 is the Year of Purpose

Like many people, the literal and metaphorical turning of the calendar to 2021 was one I was extremely happy to see. Never before have four numbers come together to provide such relief, hope and renewal! 

In the natural rhythm of the solar cycle, a new year brings with it a time of self-reflection and intention setting. While there were lots of themes, learnings and goals in my 2021 intentions, a common word that kept coming up was “purpose”.  

After a massively uncertain and challenging 2020it’s no wonder it was pervasive in this reflective exercise. I’m grateful to start this year with purpose in so many elements of my life, from the clarity of the purpose of our new business at Fluency, to the revival of purpose in many important relationships in my life. 

As I rolled around with the word “purpose”, it felt like it had legs and meaning beyond my self-reflection. It seemed it had a place as a hopeful yet achievable banner to hang over the coming year and greet us all 

I offer up three ways in which the world will be shaped by the word “purpose” in 2021. 


Purpose for Brands – Every brand today needs to be 100% clear on purpose 

As specialists in working with marketing and communications leaders, we’re keenly interested in how brands, and the leaders who shepherd them, are thinking about this coming year. Never have brands, both big and small, been so challenged to ride the waves of uncertainty in such a sea of marketplace confusion. 

One thing is galvanized for 2021: every brand today needs to be 100% clear on their purpose. Consumers have made their intentions known, and now will make more (if not all) of their purchasing decisions based on whether they support the purpose of a brand…what they stand for, why they exist, and why they have permission to operate in the market.  

Bart GivenManaging Director of Torque Strategies, one of Canada’s most inventive and forward-thinking marketing agenciesrecently shared with me that the topic of purpose comes into every client conversation these days 

As an industry we’re drawn to catch phrases, but this isn’t one. It’s real. Purpose used to be a dichotomy, but now it’s conjoined. Now a company can say, we run our business AND we know our purpose. 

Given says it requires full commitment from companies, but there’s still skepticism in some corners. 

“Our role as an agency is to empower clients and give them courage to have the conversations and commit to defining and living their purpose.” 


Purpose for Leadership – Leading with courage and conviction  

Leaders were challenged in unprecedented ways in 2020. More important, it showed us so much about what makes a great leader. We saw the difference between the brave and the meek, the conscious and the tone-deaf, the evolved and the artifact. 

For this coming year, we know leaders will need to be guided by purpose. While there was some “putting the wheels on the plane in the air” that the pandemic and societal tumult enforced, that time has passed. The purposeful framework of Fluency’s New Language of Leadership outlines five fluencies that leaders need to learn so they can embrace this future and show up with courage and conviction.   

Coaching Mindset – This is the superpower of leadership and an essential skill for the next generation of leaders because it unlocks learning, capacity and self-sufficiency in others.   

Clarity – The world of uncertainty continues in 2021…and it demands that leaders operate with a higher sense of clarity (not certainty) to navigate the future.  

Communication – The high-performing leader spent more time on communication in 2020 than any other year. That continues going forward and requires leaders to cultivate presence and be present across all mediums.   

Adaptability – Leaders will need to stay nimble, flexible, and willing to adapt to an ever-evolving context of work. If they remain rigid or revert to old ways, they will inevitably snap under the strain of that stance.  

Empathy – Leaders need to continue to show up with unmatched levels of empathy and compassion to build trust, inspire commitment, and accomplish goals. 


Purpose for Self – Your purpose is the aquifer of your life 

I’ve half-joked in recent weeks that the only people that I’m really worried about are the people that tell me, “I’m doing great!” An honest self-reflection likely means that almost all of us have lost something in the past year…our goals weren’t all achieved, our sense of connection with others was frayed, and our spirit was squashed on multiple occasions. 

As we start 2021, the brutal truth is that many of the same challenges in our lives exist…uncertainty, fear, isolation, and more. There are simply many things out of our control. But what is in our control is our purpose. We can make the conscious choice to focus on ourselves and set intentions, rituals, habits, and practices that anchor our purpose, no matter what the world throws at us. Your purpose is the aquifer of your life…it’s constant, it’s self-generating, and it’s always nourishing you. 

We’re happy to see you 2021. We don’t know what took you so long to get here, but we’re excited to getting going! 


Questions for Reflection: 

Where does your organization or brand need to gain clarity on its purpose? 

What intentions will guide your purpose as a leader in 2021? 

How will you lead yourself well with purpose this year? 

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