We know that in one’s personal life, purpose is very significant. It is equally true of organisations and their leaders. Recent studies have shown that leaders with purpose can shape the destiny of company. They can also enhance the sense of fulfilment of the employees.

A new study by the UK organisation, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a professional body for HR and people development, studies the role of “purposeful leaders.” When modern managers display purposeful behaviours, employees are less likely to quit, more satisfied, willing to go the extra mile, and less cynical, according to the researchers at the University of Sussex, the University of Greenwich and CIPD.

Professor Catherine Bailey at the University of Sussex said: “Our study shows that the modern workplace is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is one of rules and duties.” People increasingly expect an organisational purpose that goes, “beyond the kind of short-termist, financial imperatives.”

“In turn, they respond to leaders who care not just about themselves but wider society, who have strong morals and ethics, and who behave with purpose,”  Bailey added. Not much is known about what causes purposeful leadership or what impact it has — this new study is an attempt to fill this gap, reports DailyScience in June 2017.

Laura Harrison, director of strategy and transformation at the CIPD, said: “Building on a number of studies on trust, decision making, and corporate governance, this study begins an examination of an under considered facet of leadership, purposefulness. Much has been discussed about the critical nature of invoking and ‘living’ purpose in an organisation, but little around the alignment of this purpose to the internal, perhaps hidden, moral compass of an organisation’s leaders.”  So the challenge of any organisation or company is to “enable and support the development of leaders that people actually want to follow.”

The research found that just one in five UK bosses describes themselves as a purposeful leader, highlighting a largely untapped opportunity for modern organisations to improve performance by reshaping the role of leaders. The researchers indicates that organisations need to foster purposeful and ethical leadership, including the adoption of relevant policies, leader role-modelling, alignment around a core vision, and organisational culture.

Dr Amanda Shantz, University of Greenwich opined: “If organisations are serious about acting on the rhetoric of business purpose, and are to invest in achievement of their purpose, they have to reconsider the ways they select, develop and assess leaders. The traditional focus on leader behaviours only goes so far as to develop their ability to perform in a role. Instead, what is required is a development of the whole person, while accepting that it is impossible to mould all individuals into a uniform model of morals and ethics.”

Thus the challenge before the company is “not in trying to achieve perfect match between leaders’ and organisational values, but in ensuring that they complement each other in ways that best suit organisational circumstances at a given time. This includes supporting leaders to successfully recognise and negotiate the differences between what they stand for and what the business intends to achieve.”

Thus we need to recognise three-fold purpose: that of the company, of the leaders and the workers. The challenge before every successful organisation is to recognise that these purposes are different and yet complementary. When leaders and employees of the organisation can individually and collectively recognise their larger purpose, the company ambience becomes more fulfilling or satisfying.  The discovery of a larger purpose enables the organisation and its members to be more committed, enduring  and endearing.

 (The writer is professor of science, religion and philosophy and author of Gratefully and Gracefully)

Columnist: 
Kuruvilla Pandikattu