likely to translate to success if certain key facilitators are present – such as behaviours. As such, key characteristics, such as being transparent, consistent and passionate are important.

Recognise the barriers to purpose A leader’s sense of purpose is also much more likely to translate into success if certain barriers are overcome, which exist both internally and externally to the person. T ese can include limitations of the job role, such as a lack of overall responsibility; limitations of the organisation such as a complex structure, unsupportive culture or lack of focus and limitations of the team including inadequate resources and calibre, and other external factors such as the economy.

A sense of purpose, not a specifi c set of characteristics, is the key to successful leadership

from having overcome signifi cant challenges and as a result of being infl uenced by signifi cant others in their life and career to date. A sense of purpose, is personal, internalised and self-imposed, it cannot (like goals and objectives) be given to you!

T ink about how you defi ne success What is distinctive about this research is that the focus begins with understanding how leaders with purpose defi ne success, and how they use this as a means for guiding their approach and against which they rate their progress. A leader with purpose defi nes success in terms of the legacy they will leave, the impact they intend

32 | july 2016 |

to make in achieving both fi nancial and business objectives and more widely in terms that impact at the team, organisational and stakeholder level. A leader with purpose is also concerned to align their own personal values with their own defi nition of success, and achieve a sense of meaning and wellbeing in attaining their goals.

Don’t focus on specifi c characteristics Instead of being reliant on a set of specifi c characteristics, the new model clearly shows that success in leadership is dependent on conceptualising purpose and having the facilitators in place to realise this. However, a leader’s sense of purpose is much more

Appreciate that a sense of purpose is time-bound T e fi ndings also highlight that a sense of purpose is time-bound and there will come a point when a leader’s purpose within a role is fulfi lled and their job ‘done’. To remain successful and eff ective, they need to either fi nd a new sense of purpose, which may come through a pro- motion or new role or exit the organisa- tion and fi nd it elsewhere. T is obviously has huge implications for how leaders view their current and future roles, as well as succession planning in general.

Final thoughts

What this research highlights is that a whole new approach to identifying, assessing and validating success in leadership is needed. For too long the spotlight has been on specifi c sets of static characteristics and a focus on ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’, without taking into account the vital role that a sense of purpose plays. Yet this model clearly shows that success in leadership is dependent on a clear sense of purpose. As such, organisations and individuals alike need to rethink their approach to leadership, to include a renewed focus on the importance of purpose and providing facilitators and removing barriers to success.

Chris Underwood is managing director at executive search and  


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