A Just Cause is an ethical or moral justification for a course of action or a belief while a Vision is the ability to imagine what the future could look like. Vision involves creating a vision for the future, while a Just Cause is about justifying a course of action to reach a future view. In a sense we could use the two terms interchangeably but, our focus is on a Just Cause because it is about justifying a course of action to reach a future view.
It is a good thing that more and more companies seem to be embracing the importance of having a purpose at the heart of their business. The problem is, too many of them say things that only sound like a Just Cause. Indeed, they may even use language and meet some of the standards of a Just Cause. There are a few main reasons we fail to put forward a true Just Cause. Sometimes, the visionary, Cause-driven leader adopts a false cause by accident because they are struggling to find the words to embody what they imagine for the future. In other cases, the leader wants people to believe that they are Cause driven when, in fact, they have no vision at all. Common “imposter causes” include things like moon shots, a drive to “be the best,” or mistaking “growth” for purpose. Any of these may or may not work in the finite game, but they absolutely cannot lead a business to survive and thrive.
A true Just Cause is deeply personal to those who hear it, and it must be deeply personal to those who espouse it. The more personal it is for people, the more likely our passions will be stoked to help advance it. If the words of a Just Cause are used simply to boost a brand image, attract passionate employees or help drive some near-term goal, like a purchase, a vote or support for the company, the impact will be short lived. As soon as we start working at an organisation or interacting with its people, we will quickly find out whether they are offering us a Just Cause they truly believe in or just hollow words.