Kevin Murray

…is one of the foremost thinkers and advisors on corporate and organisational leadership

…has had a ringside years for over 30 years with some of the most (and least) impressive leaders

…is a best-selling author, speaker, consultant and coach

…has advised the biggest to the smallest and is endorsed by the best

…has conducted personal and extensive original research with leaders, employees and scientists

…takes a structured, robust, holistic approach to all aspects of leadership


Kevin’s work on leadership is underpinned by in-depth research, giving it real authority in a field where opinion and buzzwords are often a substitute for data-based research and rigorous thinking. In the course of writing his first two books he interviewed more than 100 CEO’s for their wisdom and learning, measured the skills of 1000 senior managers and surveyed 8,000 workers on what it takes to be inspirational.

Research into “Purpose”

Kevin’s latest research is into why purpose is so important and effective – for individuals, teams and organisations. This research taps into the strong, current and growing debate on this subject among businesses, their stakeholders and observers. An old truth is being re-discovered and Kevin’s research unveils the deeper issues beneath the soundbites. He set about identifying and researching the key criteria which are essential for a thriving and purposeful organisation.

His research underpins his new book, “People with Purpose”, key findings of which include:

  • The nature of the gap between how managers see themselves as leaders and how their employees do
  • What behaviours employees want from their bosses
  • How neuroscience validates the importance of purpose
  • How the debate about short-termism is being distorted
  • The growing support for integrated company reporting

New research tool

Working with the YouGov polling agency Kevin researched 1884 managers and 2100 employees, as well as conducting 30 face to face interview with CEOs.

Kevin and YouGov devised a “Purpose-Focused” polling method and approach which has been patented and which is now available as a powerful research tool for individual CEOs and companies.

Kevin said, “While it is valuable to understand current trends and insights, all senior managers are mainly interested in the performance of their own businesses. Now they can use a range of Purpose-Focused criteria to develop strategies and improve performance among leadership teams and throughout their organisations.”

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When people find a sense of purpose, and begin to dream and chase positive goals, the benefits are limitless. They change themselves, they better their families, they improve their communities, they help their organizations and companies to perform better, they help to create wealth and prosperity, and they contribute to society in a wide range of ways.


What is it about having a purpose that has such a positive effect on these individuals? How does it affect how we feel? How does it affect our physiology? And what does all of that mean for how we choose to lead? These were the questions that led me to write my new book, People with Purpose.


The answer, of course, is supplied by neuroscientists – the people who study the nervous system and the brain, especially in relation to behaviour and learning. Why? Because global research being done in neuroscience is beginning to piece together connections between the brain and behaviour, especially at work.


This research is providing valuable insights into how to be a more effective leader. It turns out that understanding how our brains function, and the chemicals they release, is vital to delivering our strategies successfully.


So, what do scientists know about our brains and giving people a sense of purpose? Do they have insights that we can take into our own organizations and the teams we lead?


Dr Duncan Banks, a lifetime honorary member of the British Neuroscience Association, director of work-based learning at the Open University in Milton Keynes, and one of Britain’s leading neuroscientists, says: “Purpose is most often derived from a willingness to take part in activities for the greater good of the community. It is all a matter of whether you feel worthy or worthless.  Make them feel worthy and they will try harder.


‘We know that enrichment has a big part to play in brain development from an early stage, even for babies. Give them a rich environment in which they develop and you’ll find they develop into better individuals. If you put someone into an un-rich, worthless environment, they are very likely to go downhill and not be able to contribute, whether this is in a business or in a community.’


Purpose changes your brain chemistry 

‘When you have a sense of purpose, especially a sense of common purpose, your brain chemistry changes. These chemicals change everything – from your perception of pain, your ability to handle difficult and challenging environments, and even your health and well-being’, says Dr Banks.


‘For all these reasons, leaders need to think about whether they make their employees feel worthless or worthy’, says Dr Banks. Do they make their employees feel a sense of common purpose, and part of a community? Do leaders communicate in the right way, involving people and listening to them, as well as persuading and encouraging them? Only by communicating effectively, can leaders make their employees feel worthy and respected.

The positive side effect will always be an increase in performance, because people who feel worthy are much more likely to give of their discretionary effort when called on to work harder.


Another key factor in neuroscience is whether people feel they are moving towards a reward, or away from danger. In the modern context, danger is anything people perceive as a threat – being sacked, being bullied, or being overwhelmed. Reward is not just about money, it is also about personal growth, satisfaction, or helping others.


In either case, neurochemicals are pumped into the brain which have an effect on our physiology and our behaviours – and we have little control over these. The long-term effects of the neurochemicals that are induced when we are under threat or feeling unworthy can be extremely harmful to our health. Conversely, the neurochemicals of feeling worthy and moving to a reward a really good for our health, our mental state and our wellbeing.


As a manager, you should always think about how you are making their people feel – are you making your people feel worthy, and that they are moving towards reward? Or are you making them feel unworthy/in danger?


The answer to that question will determine the chemistry of your employees’ brains, and therefore their behaviours. And all of that will make a massive difference to their performance, and therefore to your performance, as a manager.


















NEW BOOK: "People with Purpose"

People with Purpose BookKevin’s latest book, “People with Purpose” is about how great business leaders use purpose to power what he calls “super performance”. It is also about the wider concept of what it takes to give people a sense of purpose.

The book has received powerful endorsements from business leaders, including Stuart Rose (ex-M&S boss), who said, “It’s a book I wish I could have read 30 years ago.” Ernst & Young’s Valerie Keller (Executive Director, Global Markets) said, “This timely read advances the global purpose movement from talk to walk.”

Watch Kevin discuss the new book in our videos section >

It follows his first two – best-selling – books, “The Language of Leaders” and “Communicate to Inspire”.

Your guide to the purpose framework >