Purposeful leadership reflects something more aspirational than an economic exchange. It aims to bring people in an organisation together around making a difference; it gives them a sense of meaning, and it draws their support. People are happier and more productive when their leaders show strong morals, a clear vision and commitment to stakeholders. As consumers, employees and key stakeholders, we increasingly expect an organisational purpose that goes beyond a mere focus on the bottom line.
The importance of purposeful leadership is growing during these times of unprecedented and accelerated change. The increasingly complex and demanding environment we currently live in is placing organisational leadership in the spotlight… just look at the 2017-18 Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking and Services Industry in Australia; or the growing focus of millennials towards purposeful business. These pressures are forcing senior leadership to consider the impact their decisions are having beyond profit, to include both people and planet.
Larry Fink is widely recognised as one of the primary leaders of purposeful business. In his 2019 Letter to CEOs, Fink highlights the greater importance of purposeful leadership to solve some of our most pressing challenges – “the world needs [purposeful leadership]… companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity. Companies cannot solve every issue of public importance, but there are many – from retirement to infrastructure to preparing workers for the jobs of the future – that cannot be solved without corporate leadership”.
“At a time of great political and economic disruption, your leadership is indispensable” – Larry Fink (CEO, BlackRock).
In 2019, purposeful business is set to continue to grow — but not without those willing to lead it.
In line with the conversation around purposeful leadership, Hatched has been conducting interviews to be released this year called Purpose Journeys. Purpose Journeys is a series of inspiring & insightful conversations with the CEOs and Founders of some of the most progressive and impactful businesses.
With this growing bank of knowledge and wisdom at our fingertips, and a new year beginning, here are 5 Purposeful Leadership Insights for 2019:
1. Focus on leading, not on being a leader.
Think about the verb to lead, rather than the noun leader. That frames it in a completely different light, right? Bear with it for a second…There is a slight complexity around striving to be a ‘leader’, as opposed to ‘leading’, which is that when one focuses on being a leader, people tend see you as an icon. As a result, they can get locked up in the image of the leader, and are often distracted from the fundamental message being communicated.
2. Leadership is the greatest test of humility.
CEOs and Founders are either admitting they don’t know something, asking for help, or apologising for doing the wrong thing. Responsibility, honesty and accountability are key attributes of leadership that ensure that the overall group objective is placed above individual ego. In fact, what leaders agree we should say to people is that we know we don’t get it all right, we just hope we get it right more than we get it wrong.
3. Put Purpose at the Center of Your Message
‘The modern workplace is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is one of rules and duties’ a study from Sussex University in the UK shows. People respond to leaders who care not just about themselves but wider society, who have strong morals and ethics, and who behave with purpose. When placing an authentic purpose at the centre of your message, people do more… and they do it better. Employees are less likely to quit, more satisfied, willing to go the extra mile, better performers and less cynical. They spring into work full of joy and they transmit that to your clients. It is such a powerful business tool to engage people that way.
4. Pick your Field of Communication.
With an authentic, deeper purpose for people to connect with, it is crucial that the message is effectively received. When thinking about communication and leading, we should consider what field we meet people on. Should I meet you on the field of logic and data? On beliefs and emotions? Or should I communicate my message through cases and metaphors? For example, when dealing with a group of experts around the environmental impacts of Product A, it might be more effective to communicate using logic and data; versus communicating with a group of volunteers and donors, who might respond best to examples or cases.
5. Don’t look to be a perfect leader, look to complement organisational purpose.
The real challenge is not obtaining a perfect match between leader and organisational purpose, but in ensuring they complement each other. This can be seen as a balancing act – giving individual leaders an opportunity to contribute most effectively to organisational purpose, without compromising on their own individual values. The result is an organic relationship where individual and organisation compliment and contribute to each one’s end goal.
Purposeful leadership may seem to some just an ideal, but to lead people down a purposeful path helps them find meaning in their work. They are more dedicated. They give their time freely. They progress rather than stagnate, and as a result, so does the business…and society along with it.