As events have transpired over the past year and the resulting landscape has dramatically reshaped the narrative of companies, communities, and individuals, we’ve been thinking a lot about our purpose as leaders. Not why leaders are necessary, but how great leaders can define and declare why they do what they do and, in turn, inspire others to action.

Purpose-driven leadership has been explained in various ways and can be looked at in the context of the individual and their belief system and values, and perhaps too through the lens of the organizations they work for and what their purpose and values may be. Either way, its time has come.

Let’s take a moment and give some clarity to what we mean by purpose-driven leadership.

What is Purpose-Driven Leadership?

There are simple definitions out there that describe purpose-driven leadership as when individuals bring their personal values and beliefs into an organization and apply them to their daily work life to enhance the culture, engage others, and shape how they make decisions.

We prefer to take it a step further by also saying it goes beyond profits and growth and instead looks to extend doing the right thing beyond the organization’s structure and into the collective community and society.

Purpose-driven leaders seek to improve the lives of those they lead and those they may not know to make a difference and perhaps better the world. These leaders are motivated by meaningful work and consistently seek to be part of something bigger than themselves.

As we have observed top leaders throughout various professions, the ones that demand the greatest respect from those they lead are the ones that have examined what it means to be a good leader, and they then instill this in others. Their success is not defined in terms of driving revenues or lining the wealthy’s pockets but is instead measured by their overall happiness in the positions they hold and whether they can also make a more significant impact socially, sustainably, philanthropically, and economically.

Key Characteristics

Along with the usual qualities of a good leader, there are new characteristics that companies are beginning to encourage as we rethink what it means to be a good leader today. While many of these attributes may appear to be softer skills, they are essential for the demands now placed on leaders that go beyond traditional qualities and evolve to embrace the modern organization’s purpose-driven culture.

Here are some of the top merits which distinguish the purpose-driven leader from the traditional one.

1.   Introspective

The leaders we described above have made the time for introspection and now find additional meaning through life outside of work. With self-reflection, they are clear on making the most of their abilities and looking to pursue ways they can influence change. They want to incorporate purpose in the company vision and through acts of service as well.

This inward look at what motivates us takes a more significant commitment than a simple exercise we can share here. However, spending quality time exploring and defining personal belief systems, capturing core values we must live by without compromise, and perhaps experimenting with passion projects provides the guiding principles necessary to lead with purpose. It sets a basic framework for how we make decisions, how we engage and inspire others, and how we define the visions we ask others to follow.

2.   Empathetic

Having the capacity to show sensitivity to others’ feelings and needs is at the core of purpose. It’s the basis for which the desire to change circumstances for others occurs. Displaying compassion for someone other than ourselves means we can build on that feeling and show kindness and goodwill in ways of meaningful value.

Empathetic and compassionate leaders have an opportunity to leverage the positions they hold to drive change through innovation, humanitarianism, and philanthropy. They can also impact the day-to-day lives of those they lead through actions taken, decisions made, and experiences they share.

It would be a fantastic world full of progress and potential if more leadership displayed empathy and compassion for those in our care.

Learn more about leading with empathy.

3.   Display Integrity, Earn Trust

Leaders should remember that the audiences they command are carefully observing. They want to respect and trust those that make decisions about their livelihood and measure that through the character and integrity displayed in daily actions and communications.

Trust across organizations, governments, and leadership feels as though it’s at an all-time low in our society. The average person has lost their trust in most of the leadership they rely upon, an unfortunate byproduct of coinciding crises with little direction.

For those who aspire to lead more purposely while fostering purpose in others, there is a need to see visible consistency in the integrity of governance, management, and vision.

4.   Curiosity

Those who are top of their field quite often display a level of curiosity that most do not. This inquisitiveness often fuels their choices and shapes the businesses they run. It’s an admirable quality and one that leads to innovation and strengthened commitment to do more.

Purpose-driven leaders embrace that curiosity to seek meaningful work and be part of something greater than themselves. Having a natural tendency to learn more, improve on something, or simply ask more profound questions sets the stage for new and expanded purpose and lends itself to rigor and process.

Curiosity is the fuel to stretch boundaries and explore possibilities. Curiosity is infectious and can motivate others to expand on progress or experiment on their own. Encouraging curiosity in others is a great way to build a risk-tolerant culture and a purpose-driven organization.

5.   Communicative

To be purpose-driven means you must share your vision, values, and ‘why’ so that others are inspired to act. The best leaders are typically great communicators. They understand what it takes to engage and excite people, galvanize them to achieve goals, and motivate them to go beyond their comfort zone, all for the greater good of the company.

For purpose-driven leaders, they apply this same skill to evoke action for the good of others and the company. They also become masters at active listening to understand needs and communicate them, ensuring everyone is on board.

Communicating clearly and often is a powerful tool. It’s foundational to everything we do, but also to every merit we’ve listed. It’s how individuals learn who we are, what we stand for, and where we can go together. It’s how we share our vision for a better place and how we ignite the passion and enthusiasm to do better in others.

Will You Become a Purpose-Driven Leader?

While these characteristics aren’t necessarily exhaustive, they are essential to embrace a leadership style that commands greater attention.

As more organizations of all types take on added visibility on the world stage, they are under greater scrutiny. Through mediums such as social media and collaborative tools, leaders will need to carefully consider how they want to be seen by those inside and outside their organizations.

It’s a tremendous opportunity to step in and step up to something greater than ourselves if we have the courage and conviction to envisage how we can play a more integral part.