purpose – noun –  a person’s sense of resolve or determination. (Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

Admiral Arleigh A. Burke

Admiral Arleigh A. Burke
(source: Wikipedia)

A purposeful leader is determined, resilient and easy to follow. A good leader needs a definite and deliberate purpose. Following leaders without a real purpose sounds like the blind leading the blind.

“Leadership is understanding people and involving them to help you do a job. That takes all of the good characteristics, like integrity, dedication of purpose, selflessness, knowledge, skill, implacability, as well as determination not to accept failure.”
Admiral Arleigh A. Burke

Purpose is not only knowing what you are doing, but also why you are doing it. This goes deep. It requires you to think about your own personal values and ambitions. Do your values coincide with those of your organisation. If not, can you genuinely say that your purpose is consistent with that of the organisation? Are you genuinely committed to helping the organisation achieve its aims?

Why are you a leader in your organisation?

Leadership is not a position of authority bestowed on you as a result of the status of your role; it is gradually accumulated as followers decide that you are someone worth following. This is the difference between authority being given to you as a result of status within the organisation and the far more powerful authority you cultivate by developing relationships and having people in the organisation listen to what you say – your followers. Knowing not only what you are trying to achieve, but also why you are trying to achieve it will make you a much more authentic and believable leader and so much more likely to have followers who are with you for the long haul.

Having a good understanding of your purpose will help you be resilient in times of stress.

In a personal resilience questionnaire I completed as part of the Ashridge Leadership Workshop I did not score as strongly on purpose as I did in other areas measured. Whilst I am slightly sceptical about the accuracy of this sort of questionnaire, it did tally with other challenges I was looking at on the course. So I decided to have a good think about my purpose.

First I thought about my values and how these coincided with those of the organisation I work for. Fortunately, the business I am a part of thought about its values a few years ago and defined a set of values which I can totally get behind.

Next I thought about myself and my long term goals both within work and outside. I concluded that my fundamental motivations were to be true to my faith in all I do and to provide love and support to my family. My Christian faith teaches that we should work hard and make time for our relationships outside work.

I then thought about what I wanted to achieve in work and how I could achieve that and came up with the following:

  • To provide leadership and passion within the organisation.
  • To support and challenge my teams to help them be the very best they can be.
  • To develop a reputation for reliability, integrity and delivering results.

Obviously these are high level, long-term and intangible to some extent. The challenge is then to translate these into short-term behaviours that achieve the purpose.

Do you have a definite and deliberate purpose in your leadership?

About Sam Meldrum

Sam Meldrum is a Partner at Barnett Waddingham LLP where he leads the IT team. I have an interest in leadership, business, economics, technology, Christianity, running, cycling​ and photography. You can find my other stuff on the web by visiting about.me/SamMeldrum​ or follow me on Twitter: @SamMeldrum.
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