The purposeful leader is a leader with purpose and is intentionally living out his/her purpose. Purposeful leaders are confident and secure in who they are; competent with a servant-heart in what they do; and act as a catalyst to spur others into future possibilities.
What is a Confident Leader?
Part 1 of The Purposeful Leadership Series speaks about The Confident Leader. A Confident Leader is one who knows his/her identity. Because they know who they are, they can be secure and lead with confidence.
Today, we live in a social media influenced and driven world where perception counts more than reality - at least, for some. As a result of this, leadership identity is often confused by position, power and the purse that leads to a distortion of leadership motives.
Leadership Identity based on Position
Leadership is based on the individual’s seniority in the organisation. Everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder. Organisational titles and hierarchical structures provide a (false) sense of achievement. We looked at the life of Mother Theresa in our previous article - the position does not make the leader, but rather the leader makes the position.
When a leader’s identity is based on a position, their leadership motive is distorted by status. They are fixated by career promotions and upward movements. Their mantra is - I must climb to the highest position possible. Success and progress is measured by vertical progression. When this happens, learning agility is limited by a structure and growth is reduced to a title.
Related: How to Finesse Your Leadership Skills
Instead of asking “who can I manage” (position and status), leaders must ask themselves “why am I here” (purpose). The intrinsic motivation presents the opportunity to look inward before moving outwards (and upwards). Purpose becomes the starting point for engagement conversations with Boards, management teams, team leaders and employees alike.
In my experience as a HR Leader, I have interviewed a number of candidates for senior leadership positions in the organisations I was working for. If I could rewind the clock and go back in time, I would have given more attention to questions around purpose. Why do they see themselves wanting to take the role? Sure, we have the tools to assess competencies and profiling questions for aptitude, but when it comes to purpose, greater discernment is needed as much as wisdom. Perhaps the closest I’ve come to was the time when I flew to Beijing to meet a candidate. We had spoken earlier via phone/video. The in-person conversation went well. He turned out to be the ideal candidate and checked all the boxes. Yet, deep inside me, I felt he was better-off not joining us. I felt we couldn’t provide the avenue for him to grow and fulfil his purpose. After several internal discussions, I broke the news to him. I’m not sure how he took it, but I hope he’s doing well today!
Leadership Identity based on Power
Leadership is described as the people and resources at the leader’s disposal. Such leadership is characterised by the need for power and the desire to have more of it. The semantics may differ, but at the heart of it, leaders believe in the myth that the more power they have, the more resources they have at their disposal.
The longing for power results in a distorted leadership motive for control. To accumulate as much power to have control over as much resources. Thus creating a hierarchy of power that is dependent on the individual. While it (power and access to resources) may be true to some extent, the resources available to leaders is not a demonstration of power but rather to facilitate the delivery of expectations.
Instead of “what/who can I control”, leaders need to ask themselves - who can I inspire? What are the possibilities we can create? How can we value-add and be inclusive so we build something together?
Samad (not his real name) was seen as a young and ambitious leader. Gung-ho, passionate and energetic. He had unconventional ways of getting things done; so much so that his creativity often drove others up the wall. Nevertheless, his heart was always in the right place. I had numerous conversations with Samad. Slowly but surely, through coaching conversations and personal reflection, his (unintentional) focus on power and control turned into a desire to see others become successful. He shifted from directing people to enabling and inspiring them. My favourite quote - “we must see people as people, and not a resource”. When we do that, we will value people and inspire them to greatness!
Leadership Identity based on Purse
Leadership is associated with the money a leader earns. Leadership identity is confused with salary / profits. The confusion is more pronounced when we equate leadership identity to position and power. While leadership roles may earn more, it is not necessarily the case. We have all seen the effects of unions and how it can disrupt the business. If you don’t already know, union members don’t earn nearly as much as executives!
The leadership motive here is distorted by greed. To gain as much salary / wealth as possible. This zealous pursuit of financial gains may compromise judgement and integrity of decision. Think of corporate scandals that made global headlines in the recent past.
Instead of “what can I get”, leaders must ask themselves “what can I share”. How can my knowledge, skills and experience help another person’s potential? And if you feel convicted, what causes can I contribute (financially) to?
In recent years, I have had different opportunities come my way. Some were more lucrative than others, and still some more interesting and exciting. Truth be told, the purse has been very tempting. Like you, the prospect of having a bigger purse (salary) is enticing. Yet in this season, the question for me is - how can I contribute. What can I share when working with client ABC or XYZ? How does this align with my purpose?
Greed is knocking at our doors everyday. Waiting for us to crack it open to take a peak. Trust me, it’s not what it appears to be. Don’t give in. Don’t allow your leadership identity to be tied to the purse. Don’t allow your leadership motive to be distorted by greed.