The modern world makes little distinction between "ends" and "purposes." "Ends" mean the completeness or fulfillment (ripeness) and - in a true sense - the completion (a kind of finality) to an institution or person. Purposes refer to what 'motors' or propels our actions forward. Purposes are, thus, limited to ones ordinary waking existence or awareness (consciousness) of the world - reality is engaged by the person who has a clear purpose.
But "ends" are not exclusively referred to those who do things on purpose. Aristotle makes this point in his Physics II where he says "It is absurd to suppose that nothing comes into being for an end if we do not see the moving cause deliberating." Things exist in nature and do things for the sake of the end without any conscious awareness of a purpose. Bees build a honeycomb without deliberating over how to build it much less hiring consultants to figure out where to build it - they just do it. Ends do not exist because of agents. Purposes require agents. Thus, as human beings we have an end, even if each of us has conscious intentions which form our purpose for acting. For the human being, the end of human life - its true completeness - is directed toward happiness not because of what we will - or choose - but because of who we are. We are - or should be - aware of our purpose. We don't always grasp the ends to which we were created for and exist to fulfill.
Francis Slade, a scholar of Aristotle, offers two great examples* that modern leaders can apply to their ordinary organizational life. We have added a third to bring home the triple play:
Medicine, as a body of knowledge and skills, has as its end the restoration and maintenance of human health. Yet, a person's purpose in practicing medicine can vary from wanting to "make a lot of money" to "relieving suffering out of love for mankind." The art of medicine exists not to provide those who practice it with money nor to demonstrate our sympathy or benevolence toward our fellow suffering human beings. When the doctors - who now face murder charges - trapped in hurricane Katrina conducted "mercy killing" to their patients, they may have been motivated by their purpose (alleviate suffering), but their actions violated the very end for which the art of medicine exists. This is why the Hippocratic Oath forbids the use of the art of medicine to kill people. While the killing is certainly wrong to varying degrees, the reason for the oath is to primarily preserve the Art of Medicine itself - the proper end for which medicine exists. Just because we - as conscious persons - start out with certain things we want, this favoring describes our purpose but not the end itself. Medicine exists for a stated end no matter what the doctor intends. We will our purpose, but the ends remain despite them.
Education, or for example, attending college, has its end in the acquiring of knowledge about the arts and sciences. The proper end of education should be understood to be for the acquisition of knowledge. We also know that those who attend college tend to enjoy greater economic benefits - make more money - than those who don't. The end of attending college will generally be achieved if the teachers teach and students study. Thus, if a student makes partying a priority over studying, he does more than frustrate his purpose, he is acting contrary to the end for which he is in school. But if the purpose of education becomes about the economic advantage gained - more money made - than about the learning itself, then a more subtle frustration of ones purpose collides with the end. This occurs on two sides: the student who uses learning as a means to their purpose to make more money; and the educational institutions who see the students as means to making money for the college rather than imparting wisdom. If a college sees themselves as solely existing to promote economic and social advantage to its students, they probably see the same for themselves. The consequence is that both frustrate the true end for which learning at college should exist. Interestingly, the complaints coming from modern managers is that their new college hires can't think!
Mortgage Banking is a modern phenomenon in the history of commerce. The banker sells something that can neither be touched nor seen. He or she sells an agreement in the form of a product - a loan - that facilitates the ownership of property. The end of mortgage banking, properly understood, is to provide people with the capital required for ownership of land and home. It is a noble end. We know that Jefferson viewed this pursuit of property as no different than the pursuit of happiness in his final draft of the Declaration of Independence, so intertwined did he see these ends. Yet, mortgage bankers have many purposes for being in the business. The best bankers will tell you that if you enjoy helping people find happiness through ownership, the money in the form of compensation comes naturally. Other bankers may be in the mortgage business solely to make a lot of money. When fraud occurs in the industry, the reason that well established companies take strong and swift action to identify and eliminate the fraud has to do with preserving the Art of Mortgage Banking. In so doing, they preserve their business too.
The ethics of what is described here are important. First, we must acknowledge the difference between "ends" and "purposes." Our purpose is found in our conscious willing to choose and to act - we don't have a sense of purpose without these. Ends are more important; they exist regardless of our state of being. When leaders reduce ends to purposes, they jeopardize their very capacity to align the individual purposes of their people to the greater good (end) that the organization exists to advance.