There is one crucial challenge that all leaders and managers have to face in order to thrive at what they do: accessing and harnessing the power of purpose within their role.
So, why is purpose so important in leadership?
Traditional leadership tends to focus on “what” leaders do and “how” they do it. This approach helps leaders make tough decisions, drive performance, and nurture loyalty. However, with this approach, leadership is treated as a competency with skills that people should replicate.
Purpose-driven leadership on the other hand is more focused on the “why” and the reasoning behind the actions of a leader. Rather than looking at what leaders do, it is more important to pay attention to the purpose behind it.
Every purpose-driven leader has a unique “why” that is exclusive and specific to them. It is often connected to their personal values and experiences, their deepest aspirations, and indicates what they stand for. When correctly harnessed, it becomes a very powerful source of motivation for their work.
Therefore, being a purpose-driven leader does not consist of skill training or developing competencies. Rather, it is a process of personal development and discovery that will make your leadership more authentic, meaningful, and impactful.
How can you discover your leadership purpose?
Your personal purpose is often developed through continuous inner dialogue, your interaction with others, and values you have been raised with. As a purpose-driven leader, you are determined to ensure that your purpose is reflected in your actions every day and inspire others to the same.
If you are looking to discover your very own purpose, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Why do you want to lead? Why does your purpose matter? Why do you want to influence others to join your cause?
These are the characteristics of a leadership purpose:
- It is related to who you are and who you want to be.
- It captures the unique gift that you bring to the world (no other person can do it like you do).
- It is related to your personal values and motivations.
- It is not chosen or invented, but is encountered or found within (most of the time through a lot of trial and error).
- When you are doing things related to your purpose, you feel highly focused and energized.
- It is connected to different parts of your life.
Related read: 5 Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence in Leaders
10 Top Traits of a Purpose-Driven Leader
- They bring their authentic selves into everything they do.
Sometimes it is easy for leaders to feel the pressure to act a little differently in a work setting to project authority or power. However, leaders who commit themselves to their purpose usually are more authentic in the way they lead and interact with other people. With this approach, they can build trust, a culture of openness, bring about new opportunities, perspectives, and help nurture a common purpose within their team.
- They challenge the status quo.
Purpose-driven leaders are usually trailblazers who are not afraid to break the mold. They will not accept it when people say “that is just the way things are”. When they are fueled with their creative and ambitious purpose, they will do whatever it takes to bring about change–no matter how challenging the obstacles they face.
- They are not afraid to show vulnerability.
Purposeful leaders are not afraid to show their vulnerable side. By sharing their personal values, hardships, and perspectives, they will be able to establish a stronger connection with people. And they know that the only way to inspire people to join their cause is to open themselves up and be vulnerable.
- They are humble listeners.
In order to develop trust, establish a deeper connection, and align their team towards a common purpose, purpose-driven leaders prioritize listening and invite regular feedback from their stakeholders.
This is more than just establishing an open door policy. They will actively enforce regular one-on-ones, daily check-ins, and coach their team accordingly based on what they need. They listen fiercely to understand what drives their team so they can support them better and improve the way they lead.
- They are relentless champions of their cause.
Purpose-driven leaders understand that the only way they can create the most value is by cutting through the bureaucracy. They do not shy away to make their opinions known or defend their team members.
They will go out of their way to build valuable relationships with decision makers. Through this relationship, they can have the power to make improvements in relevant programs, policies, and infrastructure that will get them closer to their goal.
- They want to make work enjoyable.
A common theme among purpose-driven leaders is they relentlessly want to make work less laborious and more contributory for themselves and their team. They do that by taking a strengths-based approach.
So, instead of simply assigning people tasks, they will tailor the work and roles based on the strengths of each individual. By maximizing their talents and making work more efficient, purpose-driven leaders ensure that everyone enjoys what they do.
- Focused on what matters most.
People with profound responsibility to serve their people will draw upon their purpose (as well as empathy) to fuel their work. When they are faced with daily challenges, they are able to focus on what matters most: how doing this will impact their people and how it will get them closer to fulfilling their purpose.
- They build communities, not just businesses.
Purposeful leaders often gravitate towards connecting with people and building a community out of it. While still wanting their business to be profitable, their main driver is often more empathy-based and related to their personal purpose.
- They see each day as an opportunity to do good.
You must have experienced days when your work became transactional and you became unmotivated, or days when you are facing a crisis and you feel like everything is falling apart. Purposeful leaders experience all of this too – the difference is the way they choose to respond to it.
When things refuse to go their way, they understand that there is always an opportunity or learning moment that they can gain out of it. They focus on building value as they engage, respond, and support others throughout the whole experience.
Most importantly, they understand that purpose will never be fulfilled just by thinking about it, but rather by embodying it in everything you do – every single day.
- They help others discover their own purpose.
Unlike other leaders that might prioritize performance and completing tasks above all things, purpose-driven leaders will go out of their way to ensure that their team members understand the purpose of why they do what they do.
They also understand that everyone has their own values and motivations. In order to help their team grow and improve, they will take the time to coach people on how they can discover their own personal purpose and help align it with the organization’s purpose. Making work purposeful and meaningful for every single member of their team.
So, what is your purpose?