“We’re on a Mission From God”

The classic Blues Brothers line is sometimes the driving force behind not-for-profit organizations and other mission-based entities. In the movie, it’s used as an excuse for lying, cheating, stealing, general mayhem and pursuit of the all-encompassing goal of saving an orphanage from foreclosure.

Too often, mission-focused organizations lose structure and guidance as teams become a tribe focused only on saving the whales or the children. Without strong strategic leadership and adherence to policy and tactics, what begins as a great idea turns into a club for cult members in their own echo-chamber. 

At the same time, when everyone in an organization knows its purpose with complete conviction, each one is capable of making decisions that will bring about their collective vision. Mature organizations like this are powerful. Like the nurses who give care with compassion and competence because they truly believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Or the social workers who find themselves seven nights a week at clients’ homes, solving underlying problems outside the scope of their paid work. And the teachers who stay after school to tutor the student who’s been left behind year after year.

Knowing what the mission is should be the beginning of any organization. But it isn’t the end. When you have true believers with integrity who are competent, there’s no obstacle that can stand in their way. Not even a "Mystery Woman",  Illinois Nazis, the police or a country *and* western band.

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