Assessing Leadership — The Purpose in Leadership Inventory

Researching, Steve Hanna, Flickr

Photo Credit: Researching, by Steve Hanna, Flickr

The inaugural edition of the journal Servant Leadership: Theory and Practice came out at the end of August. I’m grateful to have an article included in the August 2014 issue of the journal. My article is focused on the development and initial testing of what I’m calling The Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

In this brief post, I’m providing a link to the full article followed by a brief overview of what leadership variables are measured by the instrument.

The Development and Initial Testing of the Purpose in Leadership Inventory:
A Tool for Assessing Leader Goal-Orientation, Follower-Focus, and Purpose-in-Leadership

Why Was the PLI Created?

The Purpose in Leadership Inventory (PLI) was created for two audiences.

Leadership Researchers: First, the PLI is designed for researchers in the field of leadership studies. Developing new instruments to measure leadership variables is one of the keys to ongoing advancement of the field. As the field of leadership studies has grown throughout the last century, noticeable shifts are occurring. The PLI is designed to capture some of these shifts, and help researchers understand which leadership factors are associated with effectiveness in diverse organizational contexts.

Leadership Practitioners: Second, the PLI is designed for engaged leadership practitioners who desire to study the place of goal-orientation, follower-focus, and purpose-in-leadership within their organizations and leadership practice. Diverse leaders approach leadership differently. The PLI allows leaders to gain insight into how followers perceive their leadership around these vital variables.

What Does the PLI Measure?

As mentioned above, the PLI measure three core leadership variables. These are:

  • Goal Orientation
  • Follower Focus
  • Purpose in Leadership

The first two capture variables highlighted in a previous post: People or Production — Getting Things Done while Caring for People. A focus on accomplishing goals and getting things done is important for leaders. Equally import is a focus on caring for followers. Goal orientation and follower focus are the first two variables measured by the PLI.

The third variable is the significant addition to the leadership research stream. This variable is Purpose in Leadership. Purpose in leadership as a variable is based on the work of individuals such as Paul Wong who focus on meaning-centered approaches to leadership and management. These approaches take seriously the leaders’ sense of meaning and purpose.

Why Does this Matter?

The more I engage in leadership research, the more I’m convinced that purpose matters. Leaders who have a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives as leaders add value to their organizations. Such leaders help the members of the community understand that their work and organizational outcomes actually make a difference in the world.

As leader-centered models of the 20th century have been modified by more recent approaches such as transformational and servant leadership, the opportunity to reflect on the deeper meaning and purpose in leadership has emerged. The PLI is a tool to help leadership practitioners and researchers investigate the priority of these leadership variables.

I’m looking forward to seeing the additional research that will emerge through the Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

Why I Blog: Fostering Healthy Leadership

Be the Change, Feggy Art, Flickr

Photo Credit: Be the Change, Feggy Art, Flickr

“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”
– James MacGregor Burns

James MacGregor Burns’ quote resonates with most of our experiences. We see leadership occurring all around us, but rarely take time to reflect in a systematic way on what makes this leadership helpful or unhelpful—effective or ineffective. Further complicating our observations, at times we see people leading well who have no formal positions of leadership within our organizations, and at other times we see people in positions of leadership who really are not providing the necessary leadership direction for our organizations as we move into the future.

Lingering Questions

And so we come back to Burns’ comments: Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. But must it be this way? Is leadership simply a mysterious reality? Is it something that we simply know when it is going well or poorly, but will never really understand what makes it work? Or might we be able to provide some basic descriptions of the form and shape of good, helpful, and effective leadership? Might we be able to get at some minimum factors that characterize both what helpful leaders and leadership look like?

Leadership Can Be Learned

Part of my vocational calling is providing thoughtful responses to such questions. I believe leadership can be described and studied. I believe it can be learned. Not every person is wired to be a capital “L” Leader. However, just about everyone embedded in an organization, group, or family can grow in and learn how to positively influence and guide the people around them.

This is the heart behind why I’ve started blogging at Although I’ve been observing leaders in action most of my life, I’ve spent the last 15 years in focused study on the topic through various degree programs, organizational roles, research agendas, and teaching opportunities. I want to start sharing some of these lessons learned with a wider audience.

A Passion for Ridding the World of Bad Leadership

Harvard Business Review’s editorial mission is “to rid the world of bad management.” I have a similar passion in the area of leadership. Though I won’t be able to personally rid the world of bad leadership, I’d love to make a dent in this ambitious agenda. I want to spread a message…

  • …that leadership is more about serving others than being served,
  • …that people are the priority even in profit-driven sectors,
  • …that leaders need to create organizations and societies that are not only productive, but also are fit for human beings,
  • …that purpose in leadership is of central importance,
  • …that leadership is vital in organizations that create value for those they serve,
  • …that people will endure great hardship and sacrifice when they believe in what they are doing and feel their work and leadership has meaning and purpose,
  • …that leaders have a God-given responsibility to care for the people they lead,
  • …that core leadership characteristics and behaviors can be described,
  • …that leadership is vital in working toward human flourishing in organizations and societies.

Thanks for Joining Me in this Pursuit

Although I don’t believe that everything rises or falls on leadership, I do believe that the pursuit of effective and healthy models of leadership is a first-order priority in our day.

Thanks for joining me on this journey toward good, helpful, and effective leadership. Our organizations and the people we serve as leaders deserve our very best!

Why a Seminary Professor Is an MBA Student

Master of Business Administration

Master of Business Administration

Many friends and family may not know this about me until reading this blog post—I am now about one-third of the way through an MBA program. This immediately raises a question for most people—why?!?! As a person who has already gone through several educational experiences (BA, MDiv, PhD) and has the joy of teaching in an area I love (ministry leadership) the questions are “Why another degree?” and “Why an MBA in particular?”

Perhaps writing this post is more for me than anyone else (helping to crystalize my reasons), but I hope these reasons will also be helpful for others. Here’s why I’ve gone down this pathway for further study in leadership and business administration.

Growth as a Professor

First, as someone already teaching in a related field of leadership studies applied to ministry, the MBA experience is helping to sharpen my engagement with the field of organizational leadership. Based on the StrengthsFinder instrument, one of my top themes is “Learner.” As a Learner, further engagement with leadership and related studies beyond the PhD helps to keep me on the learning edge in my field of study. Rather than being bored with covering areas I’ve already engaged both as a student and professor, I find it quite energizing to have a context for formalized and ongoing learning in this area.

But this learning is not just about me. It’s my conviction that a commitment to ongoing learning helps keep me fresh and provides my students with best-practice insights on how to lead diverse organizations from a ministry perspective (churches, non-profits, mission agencies, and beyond). Most of these organizations need to clearly think through how people are led, teams are organized, staff members are resourced, and budgets planned. Growing in my understanding in these areas helps me better equip students as they move into diverse ministry leadership positions.

Growth as a Leader

Second, during my 15 years of working with Bethel Seminary I’ve often had both classroom and administrative responsibilities. I’ve had the privilege of serving as our associate academic dean previously and now serve as the director both for our Doctor of Ministry program as well as our Work with Purpose initiative focused on faith-work integration. Through all of these administrative roles, I find that I not only need to grow as a leadership scholar, but also as a leadership practitioner in administrative roles.

The environment of higher education is changing. Insight around leadership and business administration practice is becoming increasingly important. While classes focused on finance, accounting, and economics in my MBA program may not immediately relate to what I teach in seminary leadership classes, they do immediately relate in vital ways to what I do as an academic administrator. The economic realities in higher education have changed since the Great Recession began. Administrators in higher education no longer have the luxury of delegating or outsourcing important financial decisions and processes. Educational leaders need to grow in general business administration skills to lead educational institutions in this new season. I’m grateful that the MBA is helping me grow in the business administration dimensions of educational leadership.

Growth as a Kingdom Citizen

Finally, this journey is helping me grow as a Kingdom citizen. As a Christian, I’m persuaded that all of life matters to God. God not only cares about those preparing for traditional ministry pathways (e.g., pastors and missionaries), God also cares about Christians serving as ministers in all areas of life. God cares about teachers, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, builders, mechanics, and the list goes on. Not only does God care about the people, He also cares about the fields and practices. He cares about law. He cares about education. He cares about health. He cares about economies.

God does not hold to the dualism many of us do. God does not see a great division between “sacred” and “secular” professions. God reigns over all dimensions of our lives, and cares about His people serving as His ambassadors through vocational stewardship. We are called to live God-centered and “doxological” (worshipful) ways in all dimensions of our lives. We are called to live this way whether we are stay-at-home parents, professionals, laborers, students, or any other category of vocational calling. We are called to be stewards of our vocations before God and the world in which He has placed us.

The MBA process is helping me develop a broader appreciation for God’s work in this world through His people. It is helping me see how serving well in our diverse vocational pathways contributes to the flourishing of God’s people and God’s world. The MBA process is helping me become a better teacher, a better leader-administrator, and a better citizen of God’s world.