The Quest for Leadership Purpose

Let me ask you this: Have you identified your leadership purpose, and are you expressing it in your daily activities? Don’t worry if you haven’t, only about 20% of leaders say they have.

But if you want to drive a high-performance organization, you must find ways to make employee performance meaningful. Sadly, many executive teams focus on numbers instead of words when trying to motivate people to achieve more. Carrots and sticks may work in some situations, but leaders must engage hearts and minds to truly excite people to give their all.

Great leaders have a profound impact in their communities, families and key societal realms (i.e., sports, politics). Nowhere is good leadership more important than at work, where we devote considerable time and energy.

“Great leadership has the potential to excite people to extraordinary levels of achievement. But it is not only about performance; it is also about meaning.” ~ Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones, Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (Harvard Business Review Press, 2006)

From what I see when I’m coaching leaders in organizations, there is a deepening disenchantment with traditional-style management. People are increasingly suspicious of the skilled and charismatic boss who echoes corporate mission statements and jargon. The search for authenticity in those who lead us has never been more pressing.

While concepts such as quiet leadership and servant leaders are popular in business bestsellers, corporations are slow to change selection criteria. Leadership continues to be about results. Organizations are not immune to the lure of the heroic CEO.

And while great results aren’t achieved by inspirational leadership alone, they may not be possible without it. Employees choose to come to work and give their best—or not. Leaders who excel at capturing hearts, minds and souls provide purpose, meaning and motivation.

Of course, the bigger question for most of us is, how the heck do we do that? That’s why this next series of posts is all about leadership purpose and how we can explore ways to find meaning.

Questions? You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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