This was our opening question for a recent day on Leadership with the Management Team of an international global client.
Why did we ask this obvious question? Because it is hardly ever asked. Instead most writings, teachings and lectures on Leadership take the following direction: the role of Leadership and how Great Leaders should think, act, behave, talk, eat, work-out, live, meditate, whatever…so much stuff around!!!
We deeply believe in creating a shared view on the purpose of Leadership is more critical for starting a proper and productive conversation, never the less hardly ever happening.
These are our client’s first answers on the purpose of Leadership:
“Creating a “We Spirit”. Supporting the employees. Giving directions. Initiating and leading change. Distributing scarce resources. Inspiring people. Managing stakeholders,..”
Meep. We asked a “WHY” question and got a “WHAT/HOW/WHO” answer.
Next round: “Reach a common goal. Reach a goal collectively. To manifest, actualize, realize an organizations purpose”. That sounded much better to us. So we nailed it down to
“The purpose of Leadership is to manifest/realize the organization’s purpose”
Now, all of a sudden, the day started to be a different one. Based on this shared finding we didn’t talk about “what is a good Leader” and all the billions of concepts everyone had in his/her mind any more. We talked about how they/you as a Leader can best contribute to bring the organization’s purpose to life. (In case the organization’s purpose is not clear, or there is no conscious awareness on what it is, it might be a good idea to explore that first)
We created a clear orientation for our discussion: what are the activities (WHAT), what are some major important principles (HOW), and WHO are the people best equipped in this organization to help the organization’s purpose come true. All of a sudden we had a different conversation, free from dogmas, concepts and theory, but full of energy, real-life experiences and very specific outcomes.
It was a relieve to take off the dogmatic and moralist burden of most “Leadership” discussions. Instead we crafted very simple and powerful tools.
Those tools are simply Questions: “How can we manifest the organizations’s purpose? Does this help to realize the organization’s purpose? What – out of the options – helps realizing the organization’s purpose most (under the given circumstances)?”
This also helps to remember what “Leadership” really is: an activity and a tool – and not a purpose of its own.