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5 Tips for Leading with Purpose

Written by: Marcus Cecil, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Prioritizing Purpose

According to a recent study, Gen Z is the first generation to prioritize purpose over money. As a strong advocate of leading with a purpose to achieve a more fulfilled life, this is music to my ears. More pragmatically, Gen Z comprises people born from the mid-to-late 1990s through the early 2010s, so people entering their teens or becoming adults now. Soon they will be shaping our society. And more personally, my two children are included in Gen Z, which gives me another reason to rejoice!

You may be a leader at work or at home, a leader in a formal capacity or de facto, a leader of a larger or a smaller number of people. Regardless of your scope as a leader, I believe that having a purpose and helping others align to a purpose is a key to effective leadership, particularly in times of turmoil, uncertainty, or transformation.

Over the years, I’ve seen purpose 'come to action' both in the corporate world and as a life coach. While not everyone in a group of people will be catalyzed by purpose alone, some people will be. And in my experience, these people tend to be strong early adopters for whatever transformation you seek. Early adopters engage other people to follow them. Therefore, having a common purpose is a good way to lead others to achieve great things together.

So, I thought I would share 5 tips that I see contributing to establishing purpose to create energy for transformation.

1. Leading with purpose; find your own first.

As a life coach, I believe that understanding your own purpose is essential to your wellbeing. And I’ve seen how perilous leading other people without having established your own wellbeing can be. Ergo, knowing your own purpose is key to leading others.

"Your purpose makes you distinctive and unique."

Your purpose can be defined as your reason for being, the achievement of which will make you feel fulfilled and happy. It's been said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why. Your purpose is important!

Seeking your purpose is a topic in itself and something that usually happens over a period of time. An approach that I have seen work well is to reflect on your key life experiences to identify common elements driving your behavior. What has most often made you feel happy? What strengths and passions do you systematically bring to the table? When do you feel at your most authentic? What rallies other people around you?

Seeking your own purpose is difficult to achieve on your own – having a good ‘mirror’ helps. This ‘mirror’ can be anyone who knows you well, and you can trust to give you honest feedback. Alternatively, you can seek the help of a life coach or an executive coach to support you in navigating the blind spots that may hide your purpose. Whatever the approach, the sooner you get started, the sooner you will reap the benefits of a purpose-driven life.

2. Leading with purpose; seek common ground.

To seek a purpose for the group you lead, it’s helpful to understand the broader purpose that surrounds you. So, if you lead a team at work, see if your company or department has a clearly defined purpose. This is really important because purpose requires outwards congruence – in other words, it will be hard on everyone in your team to pursue a purpose that is not consistent with the purpose of a larger group.

"Purpose requires congruence."

This need for congruence also works inwards to the members of the team, yourself included. If anyone’s individual purpose is at odds with that of the team, the mismatch will soon come up in lack of engagement, passive-aggressive behaviors, or open conflict. Conversely, the congruence between your own purpose and that of your team will make you an authentic leader.

When seeking an organizational purpose, stay away from the blandly obvious. So, for example, 'Empower to excel in customer service and exceed business targets' is probably not going to help much. An exciting purpose must be heartfelt by every person in the team, and it’s got to inspire everyone to action in support of common goals.

3. Leading with purpose; establish shared values.

An organizational purpose has to find common ground among quite a few people – how can that be achieved? Well, congruence of purpose doesn’t mean that everyone wants or does the same things or has the same perspective on everything. It does mean alignment in values, though. Values determine individual priorities and ultimately help us make decisions about how we want to live our life. Imagine being part of a group without having at least some core shared values? It’s soul-destroying, and alas, all too common.

"Shared values are key to teamwork."

Establishing a team’s purpose and shared values is a good first step in building a high-performing team. It’s something that should happen collaboratively, involving and including all team members. The more diverse the team, the longer this process will take; equally, the more diverse the team, the more potential it will produce outstanding results. So, invest whatever time it takes so that everyone in the team can recognize themselves in a co-developed purpose and set of values.

4. Leading with purpose; set a strategy.

Having a purpose is beautiful and soul-enriching. Having shared values help us connect wonderfully with other people. Yet without a clear strategy for translating purpose and shared values into outcomes, everything stays in the realm of the ethereal. You need a strategy of sorts to lead with purpose.

"Strategy makes it all tangible."

Now you may be tempted to start your strategy by writing down goals for the team. So, for example, if you are doing the exercise with your team at work, you might write down your business objectives. This may be necessary, yet it’s not sufficient. What you need to think about are the broader goals to achieve a common purpose in line with shared values. This will include those business objectives, but it will also include goals linked to helping you and every other team member pursue individual purpose. You want to encompass the idea that success in one area implies creating conditions and freeing up time for success as a person well beyond that area. Remember that idea of congruency of purpose? Well, you can see now that it is equally necessary to achieve outcomes as a team.

Aligning absolutely everything you do to your purpose is tough. Leading your team to help them align everything to purpose is even tougher. Both should really be seen as life-long or project-long endeavors. Be sure to learn from purpose-deviated actions but remember to be compassionate with yourself and empathetic towards people in your team too.

5. Leading with purpose; walk the talk.

Whatever your purpose, whatever your strategy, your team leadership efforts won’t get you far without the ‘right’ culture. You need a culture to lead with purpose.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter Drucker [attributed]

Culture can be defined as the tacit social norms of a group of people, establishing their attitudes and behaviors in everything they engage in. There is not necessarily a 'right' or 'wrong' culture. There is simply the culture that best supports the pursuit of your purpose and the achievement of your strategy.

Whatever your culture, remember this at all times: you, as the leader of your team, have a key role in shaping culture. You must behave in ways that embody your agreed shared values. You must recognize and reward people who behave in alignment with those values. If you don’t walk the talk, pretty soon, no one will. And your beautiful common purpose will remain just an intention.

Purposefully seek purpose.

So, there it is, find your own purpose, seek a common purpose, establish shared values, set a strategy, and walk the talk. Articulate all this, and you will have a pretty solid platform for leading with purpose.

Effective leadership is situational. Once you’ve built your solid platform, often reflect on how you are engaging as a team to achieve your purpose. Tweak as necessary to keep purpose, strategy, and culture aligned.

Lead with a purpose to create energy for sustained performance. The desired outcomes will come as a consequence. As A-Team leader Hannibal Smith used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together."

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Marcus Cecil, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Marcus Cecil is a life coach and a career mentor, helping successful corporate highflyers and business owners transform their lives radically to achieve more fulfillment. His approach to personal transformation, the 9 Steps to Conscious Living, is based on raising self-awareness to support a more purpose-driven life.

As a boutique global leadership development firm partner, Marcus is also a leadership mentor and business transformation facilitator for large corporations. His approach to fostering business change is based on a purposeful leadership framework – aligning strategic goals, culture, organizational structures, and leadership behaviors to an overall corporate purpose.

Before becoming a full-time coach and consultant, Marcus had a successful career in business, working for 20+ years at Fortune 500 corporations around the world. He has lived in 8 countries and has a solid understanding of what it takes to work effectively and enjoy life across cultures. He applies his lifelong experience to help both private and corporate clients find more holistic success. His mission is to raise the world’s level of self-awareness, one leader at a time.


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