Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living



I’m in a mini-series sharing my 4 Top Leadership Priorities. These priorities are central to what I teach others about leadership in classes, and these priorities inform how I want to lead personally.

In the past weeks I settled in on the first three priorities:

This week I will briefly engage the final priority — Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living.

Purpose Matters

Leaders must attend to many priorities in their work, but I argue that purpose needs to top this list of priorities. Others, such as Podolny, Khurana, and Besharov, have argued that leadership practitioners and scholars have lost sight of purpose due to a dominate focus on performance.

For leaders, performance does indeed need to be a focus. But alongside this, leaders and followers must also be able to contextualize the meaningfulness of this performance. That’s where purpose enters the discussion. Understanding purpose in leadership and work contributes to job satisfaction and an authentic belief that the work one does matters and is meaningful.

Beyond the Paycheck

Working for a paycheck is not insignificant. Work is a way to provide for many of the needs and wants we face in life. But as Eisenberg and Goodall put it, people also “want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile, rather than just a way to draw a paycheck…a transformation of its meaning—from drudgery to a source of personal significance and fulfillment.”

While purpose is important for leaders and followers alike, there is a special responsibility placed on leaders in this realm. As a leader, do you have a clear sense of not only what your organization needs to do (performance) but also why this needs to be done (purpose)?

Not Just a Good Idea

Having a sense of purpose—personally and organizationally—sounds good, but does it also bring about results?

I argue, and am seeing supported through research, that purpose also is connected to key organizational measures such as job satisfaction, leadership effectiveness, organizational commitment, and person-organization fit. For an introductory conversation around this research, see my post entitled Assessing Leadership — The Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

Leadership, Purpose, and You

Whether convinced of the importance of purpose through your own experience, or whether you are seeing the research-based evidence, it is time to bring the importance of purpose home to your life and leadership.

I encourage you to take some time in the coming week to think through the purpose that guides your life and work as a leader. I raise some questions for thinking about how to take the next steps with purpose in the following post: Leadership, Work, and the Priority of Purpose. Feel free to use these reflections and questions as you take these next steps in reflecting on purpose in your life and leadership.

In this series, I’ve laid out my top 4 leadership priorities. I hope they have been helpful, and I look forward to hearing what priorities you would add to the mix.

Here are the links to each of the posts in this series:


One thought on “Priority #4: Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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