Do you live your Purpose?

May 5, 2017


No leader leads successful without “Purpose”. Purpose is the only force that can shift our leadership focus from one that’s self-serving to one that serves others. Purpose is the only force that enables leaders to take a stand for what they believe, despite overwhelming resistance.

Great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jnr. and Mahatma Gandhi {among others} are men of purpose. These leaders are connected to purpose which matters to them most in their lifetime. Purpose matters to leaders because of what it does for leaders:

  • For Nelson Mandela, it was the liberation of the people of South Africa

  • For Winston Churchill, it was to stop Hitler from conquering the world


The reason we remember these leaders was their commitment to a bold purpose. It’s this courage and commitment to a purpose that inspires us still today. Whilst great leaders of times past were purpose driven, it may surprise to know that many leaders today lack clarity of purpose. A research cited in an article “From Purpose to Impact” by Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook which was published in the Harvard Business Review stated clearly that, “fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distil their purpose into a concrete statement.”


What is Purpose?

According to The Merriam-Webster dictionary Purpose is “the reason why something is done or used” or “the aim or intention of something”. Purpose then is associated with your reason for living your life in a certain way. Purpose is about living your life with a specific aim or intention.

Purpose should be specific and personal, resonating with you and you alone. It doesn’t have to be aspirational or cause-based.

Nick Craig and Scott Snook, writers of “From Purpose to Impact”, describe leadership purpose as, “your leadership purpose is who you are and what makes you distinctive”

Meaning that your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are and how you do your job and why you do it that way.

Purpose is the intentional expression of who you are, what makes you unique and the contribution you make to impact the world. Leading on purpose is about leading with a specific aim, objective and intention.

  • Without purpose leaders glide aimlessly from one bright shiny thing to another.

  • Without purpose leaders don’t have the courage to act or discharge their duties, to step out their comfort zone.

  • Without purpose leaders lack the passion to endure in the face of obstacles.

How does Purpose matter to leadership?

1.   Purpose Keeps Leaders Focused

When you’re clear about your purpose, you’re able to focus on what matters most. When purpose is clear you are more deliberate about where you spend your time and energy.

In the words of Peter Drucker: “Until you figure out what success means to you personally and to your organization, leadership is an almost futile conversation”.

Knowing your purpose is the first step to developing industrious goals. Purpose is the leaders compass, keeping them headed in the right path or direction. Without purpose you’re tossed to and fro by changing circumstances. You go with the flow from one emergency to another. Purpose keeps you focused or targeted on what matters


2.   Purpose Gives Leaders Meaning

Purpose matters because life is about more than making money. Purpose helps you become connected to a bigger story, beyond money, reputation and power

Viktor Frankl said: “It is purpose that ignores your heart and stirs your passion. It’s the reason you get up in the morning.”


It is purpose that gives you the will to live and the reason to get up in the morning. A life of purpose is filled with meaning because you’re clear about the contribution you’re making to the world.


3.   Purpose Gets Leaders Motivated

Purpose is the most powerful source of motivation in humans. Purpose taps into our emotions and provides a higher level of commitment and inspiration, plenty extra than any outside motivators, such as money, fame and power.


“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” – Viktor Frankl


4.   Purpose Keeps Leaders Going

Purpose keeps you going even when the times are tough. Purpose is what gives you the needed courage to persist in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Purpose is the only available resource that fuels your perseverance.


“What man actually needs is not some tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” – Viktor Frankl


Purpose is what motivates leaders to solve some of the life most challenging problems and to keeping going in spite for mounting failures and impossible odds. Purpose kindles a passion for persevering despite the difficulties.


5.   Purpose Inspires Others

Leaders that place purpose at the center of their leadership inspire others to do the same. Purpose creates great teams. Purposeful teams are inspired to work together towards outcomes they find meaningful. Leaders who live passionately on purpose inspire others. Purpose is what taps into people’s deepest motivation. It is purpose that inspires us to achieve great things over the long haul. Leaders know this and put purpose first.


““If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams


Conclusion & Reflection

As the great leaders of time past demonstrated, purpose matters. Great leadership begins with great purpose.

  • Are you leading with purpose?

  • Do you have transparency as to your purpose?

  • Have you written it down?

  • Do you live it daily?

About the Author


Helena Demuynck is Founding Partner of Konsensus Leadership Coaching & Development and oxygen4leadership. Both platforms offer global organizations international expertise in developing Leadership Development Trails for Senior Leadership Teams and Executives.


Helena is a dedicated, visionary Leadership Coach with a proven record of facilitating Senior Leadership Teams and driving groundbreaking advancements in leadership performance and transformation.


A creative problem-solver with a passion for excellence, she leverages her unique background in Leadership Development to produce exceptional results based upon innovation, sustainability and process improvement. She has a track record of exceeding expectations and successfully developing efficient coaching trails for clients such as Microsoft, Swift, Aleris, J&J and G4S, working independently and collaboratively with multidisciplinary coaches, trainers & facilitators.


Helena delivers inspiring (e-)Coaching journeys for new and experienced Leaders and Leadership Teams. Through a combination of interaction, confrontation and reflection, aligned with organizational goals, she creates a sandpit for participants, allowing them to experiment, experience, exchange and enhance their leadership capabilities. 




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