Instead of asking ‘how do I become a great leader’, sometimes it is useful, and extremely powerful, to step back and ask ‘why is it important to me?’
Being a purpose-driven leader provides such a powerful framework for becoming (and remaining) a great leader. Without a true purpose, leadership becomes a material thing, just a title or a comparative score which sets the leader up for failure, burnout, or both. Leaders without a quality purpose are difficult for others to follow.
I see significant numbers of senior executives in coaching interactions with depression and anxiety running beneath the facade of their leadership bravado, because rather than being driven by a clear purpose which motivates them and pulls them forward, they are driven by fear of failure, or they simply don’t know what they really want in their lives. By helping them discover and define their purpose, their whole leadership approach and personal enjoyment of leadership is revolutionised.
Are you clear on what your purpose is? Do you feel it as a deep passion which drives you forward?
Your purpose can be distilled from an understanding of what is important to you, and what you serve that is bigger than yourself. If your purpose is about making, creating or contributing to others rather than self, then you are probably on the right track. A quality purpose creates quality leadership, however many leaders have goals or visions that they frame as their purpose, which violate the tenets of a quality purpose.
For example, your purpose should not be:
- About a position or material object (to be CEO, to have a sports car) ;
- About lifestyle (to retire to a beach house at 50) ;
- About monetary value (to be a millionaire by the time I’m 30) ;
- Comparative (to earn more than Bob) ; or
- About self fulfillment ( to feel something, to receive something – such as an award or acclaim)
A purpose that counts is actually about contribution.
Our purpose is not to seek happiness, but to contribute to others or a cause bigger than ourselves. This creates the conditions for happiness, fulfilment and joy to emerge.
Regardless of what you have, what you receive or how you compare, your purpose provides a ‘true north’ on your personal compass which can always guide your decision making and action taking, adding meaning to everything you do, and energising you as you contribute. It creates something that you can lead others towards in an inspiring and empowering manner.
The idea of contribution:
Doing something so that you receive something in return means you are doing it for the ‘tribute’. What you get back- the tribute you receive- determines the value of what you do, and how you judge that experience.
Tribute can be physical (money, gifts, etc.) or emotional (accolades, fame, appreciation).
When what you do is judged against the tribute you receive back, you are always stuck focusing on yourself. You might be doing something for someone else, but you are essentially doing it for what you will get back from it in return. Your actions, whilst they may be valuable, are essentially ‘selfish’ and your reason for doing what you do violates the condition of a quality purpose (about not serving yourself).
What if you were to con-tribute? That is, do something without (or against) receiving ‘tribute’? Contribution therefore can be seen as taking an action or decision because it serves that thing which is bigger that you, without judgement of what you get out of it.
The true value of contribution is that it serves your purpose, which is motivating and engaging, and allows you to make the difference which is personally important to you. You can get enormous value out of contribution. You absolutely get something back – but the point is that your focus is not on what you get back, but what you give.
That is, your are self-centred (operating from your centre or purpose) rather than being selfish (focused on what your ‘self’ gains). You benefit because you give, not as the reason for why you give. As others see that you serve this purpose through contribution, you model great behaviours and encourage others to contribute to it as well – you become a contributing leader.
I have heard at self-development seminars the idea of the ‘be-do-have’ model. That is, we ‘be’ (assume a state) something, which allows us to do things (take actions), which leads to us ‘having’ things. This is a flawed model. It is a tribute model, where the end state is what we ‘have’. Therefore the purpose of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ is material or selfish reward, which violates the laws of a quality purpose.
Leaders who have a ‘contribution’ purpose will draw others to their cause, will engage and motivate them, and be able to lead them forward. On the other hand, individuals with a ‘tribute’ purpose will disengage and demotivate, will focus on what they get and will struggle to lead. They can manage, direct and use power to enforce, but they will have very few people who truly want to follow them.
Would you like to follow someone who you believe is only leading to serve themselves?
Value is not owned. It has no residual – it is either created or destroyed in any moment, interaction or relationship and cannot be stored.
Value cannot be accumulated, but wealth can be. Wealth is a measure of what someone has or possesses. We cannot possess value. It is either created or destroyed by what we do. Creation of value occurs when we serve our purpose. Serving our purpose creates value which serves the whole community who are served.
The reward for creating value is often made tangible by the accumulation of wealth. However, like happiness, wealth is the by-product of value creation, rather than the core driver of it. Being selfish and having wealth accumulation as the primary driver of the choices you make often works to destroy value, as actions are taken against others or communities to ensure wealth accumulation for you in competition to, or at the expense of, them. Leaders who are driven by the accumulation of ‘wealth’ often take actions which destroy value for those that follow them. Their desire to accumulate (rather than have it as a by-product of the value they create for all) harms their ability to lead.
Deep down, many leaders seek wealth and happiness. Being selfish, and chasing happiness and wealth will be a sure fire way to NOT receive them. Conversely, when we have a quality purpose and seek to create value, then happiness and wealth occur on the journey. Being a self-centred leader means that your contribution purpose is your true north, and value is your currency. You will be a leader that inspires, motivates, engages and be the type of leader that others want to follow.
Why do you want to be a leader?
What is your purpose?
How do you contribute?
How do you create value?