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Purposeful Leadership: The Five Principles

Purposeful Leadership: The Five Principles

The traditional model of the leader-hero who saves the day knows it all, is the smartest person in the room, and is too often driven by power, fame, glory, or money is not appropriate in today’s environment.

People today expect a different kind of leader. Here are five attributes that characterizes leaders who are able to unleash the kind of human magic you see at work at some of the most high-performing companies.

  1. First, be clear about your purpose.
  2. Second, be clear about your role.
  3. Third, be clear about whom you serve.
  4. Fourth, be driven by values.
  5. Finally, be authentic.


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The New Kind Of Leader

The New Kind Of Leader

Today’s fast-changing, complex, and unpredictable environment necessitate a different kind of leadership. Nobody can claim to have all the answers to solve the complex crises we’re facing, and the most adaptable organizations are those in which decisions are being decentralized.

With the idea that a company’s purpose is about far more than making money gaining ground, the hard-charging, profit-optimizing hero-leader model has lost much of its appeal.


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Be Clear About Your Purpose

Be Clear About Your Purpose

That is, your purpose, the purpose of those around you, and how that connects to your company’s purpose.

The staggering number of employees leaving their jobs or seriously thinking about it over the last several months has shed renewed light on the pre-Covid realization that purpose, both individual and collective, is at the heart of the business. For corporate purposes to be successful, leaders themselves must first be clear about what drives them and the people around them.


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Be Clear About Your Role

Be Clear About Your Role

You cannot choose circumstances, but you can control your mindset. Your mindset determines whether you generate hope, inspiration, and energy around you — or bring everyone down. So, choose well.

More generally, your role as a leader is to create the right environment for others to flourish in support of the company’s purpose.


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Be Clear About Whom You Serve

Be Clear About Whom You Serve

A fundamental element of purposeful leadership is to be clear about who you serve in your position, both during good and challenging times.

As a leader, you must serve the people on the front lines, driving the business. You serve your colleagues. You serve your board of directors. You serve the people around you, by first understanding what they need to give their best so you can do your best to support them.

Golden Rule: View everyone as a customer. The way you treat airline employees or waitstaff, for example, will greatly influence the service you receive.


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Be Self Aware And Vigil To Your Behaviour

Be Self Aware And Vigil To Your Behaviour

It takes vigilance and a healthy dose of self-awareness to avoid sliding into the trap set by power, fame, glory, and money. Before speaking or acting, be clear about your motivation and whom you’re trying to serve.

The best leaders don’t climb their way to the top over the backs of others, they are carried to the top.


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Be Driven By Values

Be Driven By Values

Doing what is right is not always simple, of course, particularly during crises, when overwhelming stress and pressure can obscure our sense of values. 

For the most part, we all agree on what is right: honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and compassion. On paper, every company has great values. But values are no good if they remain on paper. Being driven by values is doing right, not just knowing or saying what’s right. A leader’s role is to live by these values, explicitly promote them, and make sure they’re part of the fabric of the business.


42 reads

Be Authentic

Be Authentic

It may take some time to embrace the true meaning of being authentic for many of us.

“Be”: Be yourself, your true self, your whole self, the best version of yourself. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Being vulnerable and authentic does not mean offloading everything to your colleagues. For leaders, it means sharing emotions and struggles when appropriate and helpful to others.


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The Surfacing Of Our Vulnerability

The Surfacing Of Our Vulnerability

As many of us were forced to work from home over video over the past two years, we revealed more of our whole selves — children, dogs, cats, wifi problems, etc. This was not always comfortable or easy. But we all had to see each other in a new light, as full human beings. Employees expect leaders too to be human. This starts with making ourselves vulnerable, including by acknowledging what we do not know.

Vulnerability is at the heart of social connection. And social connection, in turn, is at the heart of the business.


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The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

The way we lead has profound implications for people around us and how we do business. We cannot transform companies, and more generally capitalism unless we reflect on who we are as leaders, and particularly on the following questions:

  • Have you decided what kind of leader you want to be?
  • How would you describe your purpose?
  • How would you describe your role?
  • What are you doing to create an environment in which others can thrive and flourish?

So, start with yourself. Be the leader you’re meant to be. Be the change you want to see.


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