On a chilly winter morning, Nick Craig sat in a café on Main Street and marveled at the vibrancy of downtown Greenville. “I was at Furman in the 1980s,” he says. “And I remember downtown Greenville being this ubiquitously boring place. Now I look around and see the magnificent uniqueness of each store and the personality each one of them has. In some ways you could say this is a wonderful example of what purpose looks like.”

Nick has spent the past decade thinking a lot about purpose. As president and founder of the Core Leadership Institute, Nick has helped thousands of individuals from organizations such as Ben & Jerry’s, Heineken, and Lego discover their purpose and learn to lead with authenticity. “Companies at this point have gotten smart enough that most of them have a mission statement that sounds like a good story,” he says. “The challenge is that a leader has to actually stand in that place of certainty as they speak about it. Now, if you’re Howard Schultz and you created Starbucks, it’s easy because it’s your story. But if it’s not your company the question becomes, “How do you connect the gift of who you are with the gift of what the company is about?’”

Nick graduated from Furman University in 1982 with a degree in computer science and math. He then moved to Boston where he discovered his passion, and knack, for motivating executive leaders. “I think the reason I started in the consulting world a long time ago was that I discovered that as a trained engineer I was much better at people and how they ticked as opposed to how you made computers work,” he says. “My friends and colleagues at MIT were killing me on the engineering side, but they were idiots when it came to getting anything organized or collaborating or working together. So one thing led to another and I had the gift of working with some of the more amazing people who do this work over the years and have just been lucky to connect with them and be at the right place at the right time.”

“The good news is we all have a purpose that has been with us all of our life. But if we don’t know it, then we don’t have the choice of stepping into it.”—Nick Craig

But it’s just been during the last twelve years of Nick’s thirty-year consulting career that he’s placed a major focus on the importance, and the power, of purpose and authenticity. In 2007, he began collaborating with Harvard professor Bill George to co-author the book Finding your True North: A Personal Guide, which became the course book for the Harvard Business School MBA class Authentic Leadership Development. One of the first clients that reached out to Nick to do this type of training on the corporate side was General Electric. “One of the topics they wanted us to work on with them was purpose,” Nick says. “And it actually ended up being a very poignant thing for them.” Nick worked with GE’s senior leadership program between 2007 and 2010, a time when blue-chip stocks, as well as the rest of the market, were tumbling. “I watched the stock go from $56 to $6, and no one had any idea where the bottom was,” Nick says. “Some of the program’s alumni from 2007 came back in 2010, and when we asked them what had been most valuable to them, of all of the things we had discussed during the program they said, ‘The most useful thing during this incredible time of uncertainty was knowing my purpose.’”

But the importance of purpose is not limited to Fortune 500 executives and success in the workplace. According to Nick, everyone can benefit from knowing their true purpose and leading from a place of authenticity. “Anytime we do something that impacts other people, we are leading,” he says. “The question is how do you own it?” From Nick’s perspective, “owning it” means knowing your special gift and discovering how to best express it. “Purpose is not what you do but how you do it,” he says. “It’s the magic that makes you tick. It’s what everyone close to you recognizes as uniquely you and would miss most if you were gone.”

Nick explores the potential of this magic and uniqueness in his new book, Leading From Purpose. “The good news is we all have a purpose that has been with us all of our life,” he says. “But if we don’t know it, then we don’t have the choice of stepping into it.” The book is the culmination of Nick’s years of consulting and coaching experience and includes numerous case studies as well as methods on understanding your purpose and how to lead with clarity, focus, and inspiration. “We live in a time of uncertainty,” Nick says. “So the question is, how do we find solid ground? What I’ve discovered with working with so many people over the years is that the minute they stepped back into their purpose they were on solid ground. That is the beauty of purpose.”