Are you a purposeful leader?
Posted by Jane on Jul 10, 2017
Not long ago, we included a potted history of leadership styles on this blog. A style that could be added to the list, and one that’s enjoying some recent attention, is the idea of Purposeful Leadership.
The concept of a ‘purposeful organisation’ has been around for a few years, indicating the kind of business that takes its values and ethics, and social responsibilities seriously. In fact, it’s possible to see the idea of purposeful organisations/leadership as the latest iteration of the ‘corporate social responsibility’ concept that has been around for a while now. However, to date there’s been no real definition of the leadership of such an organisation, other than an assumption that the necessary leadership qualities will mirror the positive priorities embedded in the business. But now the CIPD has stepped up with some serious research and attempted to define purposeful leadership in concrete terms based on a selection of case study businesses; in other words, how it’s done in the real world.
What on earth is Purposeful Leadership?
The findings of the research found three core qualities in the purposeful leader:
- A positive (moral) vision for his or her team – this vision (the ‘purpose’) must have ethical or moral features; i.e. a clear sense of ‘doing the right thing’.
- A strong ‘moral self’ – such a leader sees it as important to see themselves as having positive qualities such as fairness, compassion, helpfulness, honesty and kindness.
- A marked commitment to stakeholders - i.e. looking after the interests of others, including employees, shareholders, customers, and wider society; aiming for positive outcomes for all.
Benefits of Purposeful Leadership
The CIPD case studies and survey of a sample of the UK workforce found a link between purposeful leadership and various positive outcomes. Employees in genuinely purposeful organisations (the case studies featured a care charity, large retail organisation, government department, and police force) experienced increased job satisfaction, an appreciation of the meaningfulness of their work, frequently went ‘beyond the call of duty’, and were found to be less likely than average to be thinking about resigning.
Tips for being more purposeful
The following features and actions can help make the organisation be more ‘purposeful’ though the obvious point to bear in mind is that the nature of the concept means it only works when it’s genuinely meant…
- A clear organisational vision, expressed in ethical terms, communicated to and accepted by all employees.
- Leadership actively listens to employees and takes on board their concerns and ideas and acts on them.
- Leadership is both trustworthy (demonstrates integrity) and is seen as such.
- Conversations about ethics and values take place within the organisation.
Interestingly, much of modern leadership focuses on how leaders should behave in their particular organisational circumstances (encouraging qualities such as agility, adaptability, and resilience) whereas the idea of purposeful leadership seems to be heading in a more aspirational direction, shaping the circumstances rather than being shaped by them.
For more on the cutting edge of purposeful leadership, download the CIPD’s research report here.
Request your free trial
Online software, simple pricing, and a smart business tool to make it
easy to manage people