Leadership and purpose

Learning at Work Week took a theme around Learning Uncovered. In Joan O’Connor’s recent LinkedIn Live session, she looked at the challenges we currently face at work and how we can refresh our skills and approaches.

Click here to watch the session: Leadership: It’s all about purpose – YouTube

Why is purpose so important in leadership and how leaders inspire others? Joan started with the role of the leader; there are plenty of theories but a common thread is along the lines of a leader being someone we can believe in, trust and who stands for something more than their own personal success; someone with vision and commitment.

How do we achieve this? Purpose is at the heart of this: what are we trying to achieve?, how does it make a difference?, how do I fit in?, is the organisation a force for good? These are the fundamental questions that people are asking about leadership and purpose.

Purposeful leadership

Purpose and passion

This is exemplified in a quote from Brent Gleeson: “When you lead with purpose in any environment, you radiate an energy and passion for the work. Your passion impacts everyone around you. It inspires and motivates others”.

As leaders, it is important to be able to adapt and to be flexible in order to create the kind of leadership that is needed in the moment, a big ask! Leading with purpose gives you something universal to work with; something to build on and adapt from, a solid grounding.

The leaders who share this energy, commitment, passion and conviction take people with them. Purpose helps a leader to focus and to be resilient, particularly in times of change, challenge and uncertainty, and it gives something to guide decision-making while keeping goals in sight.

Creating purpose

Clarity of purpose shows in how we behave, work, and engage with stakeholders; this about knowing your ‘why’; Simon Sinek’s book Find Your Why provides a good starting point. Examine your career for themes and patterns that help you find this clarity. Joan points out that not everybody needs or wants to be a leader; leadership needs to be aligned with purpose so this clarity is crucial.

The CIPD state that: “The extent to which a leader has a strong moral self, a vision for their team, and takes an ethical approach to leadership marked by a commitment to stakeholders”.

It is really important to think about what you stand for and how it fits with your team and organisation and community, the effect and impact you can have on the world. This is sometimes referred to as purposeful leadership, and the CIPD quote above outlines this and shows how important it is to be intentional about the way we lead and connect with others.

Purpose in perspective

If you, or someone else, still needs convincing that purpose is important, there is some data that can help:

“Companies with high level of purpose outperform the market by 5-7% per year. On par with companies with best-in-class governance and innovative capabilities. They also grow faster and have higher profitability” (HBR, 2019 Gartenberg & Serafein).

Continuous learning and challenging your thinking will ensure you are developing as a leader. When we talk about alignment, we need to refresh this on a continuous basis, nothing stops still and our purpose is adapted over time and with circumstances.


Article published by 10Eighty

10Eighty is a boutique, specialist provider of career coaching based in the UK. All of our clients are unique, and so our services are tailored to their individual needs. 10Eighty helps individuals to maximise their potential and helps organisations to harness that potential. We are experts in developing leadership capability and helping organisations increase employee engagement. Our service offerings include: Career Transition/Outplacement, Executive Coaching, Career Management, Leadership and Management Development and Team Effectiveness

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