Purpose-driven leadership inspires greater loyalty | Sunday Observer

Purpose-driven leadership inspires greater loyalty

12 July, 2020

Great leaders do not depend on chance, they lead on purpose’ is an anonymous aphorism by some genius somewhere down the line.

Purpose-driven leadership inspires loyalty from employees, customers, suppliers and every other stakeholder. As leaders, we have to identify and understand what we do and why we do it to give meaning to our work. Purpose allows the leader to build up teams that understand their own reason for work in relation to the comprehensive rationale of the whole business. Purpose driven leaders of teams create a purpose driven company that stands for something bigger than its products and services.  

A company that is driven by purpose adds value to make a better impression than what it looks from a general angle. It brings more meaning to work performed. To simplify the concept, imagine a situation where there are three workers  in a construction site. Each one is asked what he is doing? The first worker says that he is looking for the day’s wage, the second says that he is assisting the bosses and the third one says that he is building a beautiful castle.

In this scenario, the worker who wanted to build a castle is the most productive, happiest and the most satisfied person. It is certain that the third worker has a purpose in mind rather than just working for his company for a salary.  

Throughout the world many businesses follow a purpose-driven leadership (PDL) model where they align the business with their core values and beliefs. For example, airlines owned and operated  by Middle Eastern companies do not serve alcohol on their flights honouring their religious and cultural values. In this scenario, irrespective of the possible adverse effects in competition, the leadership places priority on purpose and integrity. These leaders who follow the PDL model believe deeply in a cause that motivates their business decisions. Today, consumers want companies to be more than a mere merchant of a particular product and serve society at large as well.


Some organisations include mission and purpose statements  in their strategic plans, while some others add purpose statements instead of the mission statements. Therefore, it is useful to analyse the difference between the two terms. The simplest explanation is that the mission statement usually describes ‘what it does’ and for ‘whose benefit’ while the purpose statement states reasons why the organisation exists in business.

In short, the purpose is beyond in terms of values, morals and principles and not merely an organisational goal.  Therefore, it is vitally important that the entire organisation understands and accepts the concept of ‘purpose’ of the organisation. 

Traditional leadership theories we have practiced  focus mostly on what leaders do, how they do it and how they make decisions and so forth. It also instructs on how to develop a set of loyal followers and how to control them. These theories treat leadership as an ability where skills are learnt through laid down techniques.

This top-down, traditional leadership is practiced by the majority of leaders throughout the world even today. In contrast, the purpose-driven leadership concept is based on lateral leadership and predominantly focuses more on moral principles and looks at the goals compassionately. Hence, every leader with a purpose has a unique ‘why’ which makes him different. 

It is not compulsory that purpose-driven leaders are naturally and irreversibly connected to his or her personal purpose. That can be developed through effort and learning from others. The key is to keep the personal purpose in mind and pass it onto others in the establishment.

Through this  model, leaders find the strength to influence employees around them constantly and successfully due to the personal moral interest. More companies are now increasingly concentrating on the fundamentals of the model ‘leading from purpose’.

Good leaders who practice the purpose-driven leadership model follow certain principles while acting on it. First, they know and analyse personal values, ethics and what gives them satisfaction as a human being. Along with that intuitive feeling about the purpose of life, these leaders act on that. When the commitments are aligned with the purpose and lined up with energy, leadership is more successful.

When the leader’s personal purpose is transformative, the team’s purpose can also be made influential for the entire organisation. When the core purpose of the team is known, the members can support the mission and strategy of the organization which ultimately leads to great results. A team of leaders with clear individual and collective purposes can take the organisation to a great height. 

When the leaders connect the individual purpose into a broader mission, a tremendous power of engagement can be created.


However, the leader has to be careful not to arbitrarily adopt other peoples’ views into his purpose. This can give a mistaken identity to the path of the goal. The leader has to be careful with the programs and systems so as not to create a dependency on the values of the leader’s uniqueness.  The systems must assist the leader’s purpose and personal path. 

Discovering the purpose in every action, a leader takes is about the capacity to recognise the purpose in daily activities. In this context, the personal purpose of the leader is not a goal but a path. Understanding the purpose gives meaning but does not replace the effort. However, it makes every person different from the others who do not follow this principle. Discovering and rediscovering the purpose is completely different from traditional leadership and is more effective. The fundamentals of purpose-driven leadership is to discover a leader’s personal purpose, help others to find their individual personal purposes and connect both to the organisational purpose. However,  to develop purpose-driven leadership, the mostly practiced traditional model today, the top-down version, has to be changed. That means to move away from the hierarchical leadership where only the opinion of the leader is accepted and transform it to lateral leadership to obtain the participation of the teams. In this concept, leaders develop other leaders and cascade leadership throughout the organisation. The managers should also identify others as potential leaders, not merely as subordinates. Those followers must be encouraged to pursue their individual purposes, within the context of shared collective purpose. All levels of employees in the organisation must also be encouraged to think as leaders sharing a common purpose and common goal.   In the absence of a purpose-driven leadership practice, employees may only be putting in time and their minds may be engaged but their spirits will not be passionate about a particular value. A team without a purpose is a unit without devotion and dedication. They may achieve short term results but in the long run they will not be motivated to go the extra mile.