A leader can be the reason that a company, or team, becomes successful or fails horribly.
Purposeful leadership is fundamental to being a leader that creates success through conscious action and intent based on a foundation of values and principled practice.
Purposeful leadership is not just about having the right skills and traits; it is also about knowing how to adapt and flex these attributes for different situations to achieve the best outcome and support those around you to achieve their potential.
The following are some of the core skills and leadership attributes that form the toolbox of a purposeful leader and allows them to take themselves and their teams to the next level.
Understand that when you are empathic, you aren’t showing weakness. It’s a strong trait to have because you understand where your team is, has been, and how to get them where they need to be in a way that works for them. You know their experiences, their weaknesses, and trigger spots and can help them accordingly.
You are approachable, but also firm when you need to be. As an empathic leader, your team knows they can go to you when they have problems and that you are willing to listen to them – that doesn’t mean you always take their side. They understand they can speak their minds on issues because you take their opinion into consideration and because you recognise that there is value in the diverse experiences and perspectives they bring to the table.
Empathy is a foundation leadership skill that is about being conscious of the emotional and social context of your people and thinking with purpose about the approach you take to moving them forward.
As a leader, you must have the ability to communicate with different levels of management and to your team efficiently.
Understand how to use both verbal and nonverbal communication, such as body language otherwise someone may misread you.
For example, take a look at how you are sitting. Are you slouching, sitting with your legs crossed or fidgeting your legs all the time? What does your body posture say about your attitude?
Do you cross your arms when you finish speaking?. Do you wave your arms around a lot when you speak? Do you rest your face on your hand? Do you sometimes point at people when you speak to them? Do the gestures reinforce or undermine what you are trying to say?
Being conscious and aware of your body and what you are communicating through gestures and positioning can reinforce or undermine your approach. You have to ensure that what you non-verbally convey is coherent with the message you are trying to convey.
Although non-verbal communication can set the tone and interpretation of the message, the verbal aspects of communication are just as important.
How you choose words can sell your message, or it can confuse the listener and disengage them. Watching how people react to you non-verbally when you’re speaking can be a good way of judging ‘trigger’ words or phrases, some may nod in agreement, others may tense at specific words or phrases.
Sometimes it can be good to record yourself and listen to how your voice modulates and the language you use when talking. Even better if you video yourself so you can see your non-verbal traits – most of us have ‘bad habits’ and some good ones too when we’re speaking and being aware of them means you can deploy them or retract them as appropriate.
Communication is now more and more virtual, whether text messages, tweets or emails and in this space words matter. When you send a text based communication sometimes it can be helpful to save the draft, take a walk, and come back to it – especially if you are trying to communicate something that is complex or where the issue is triggering you and pushing your buttons. It can be helpful before you click send to reread everything and make corrections to areas that could be misread or interpreted – try to think about the person receiving it and whether they have the context and content they need to understand your intent.
Purposeful leaders need to be strong communicators who think consciously about how they communicate with different audiences and adapt their communication styles – verbal and non-verbal – to achieve the best impact.
Being an inspiring leader is one of the traits that individuals often struggle to conceptualise when it comes to how.
You need to inspire your team to be better and to want to achieve their potential. Whether you want to admit it or not, your team will reach a point where they will either lack the motivation to do work or lose interest in their projects. When the time does come, you need to energize your team to keep going – often this comes at a point when your own energy might be flagging also.
Inspiring a team comes from understanding them and being able to engage them on a personal as well as a professional level drawing on your empathy and communication skills.
My personal view is that inspiring individuals is about engaging them in a vision and a mission and that is a two way conversation. You can give a great speech, or talk and people will be inspired but then something else sparkly comes along, and they move on and get distracted. If you engage them in a conversation about the vision then they start to co-own it and share the passion and, if you are very lucky/good, they start to inspire others about the same vision.
Using your inspiring skills isn’t something that you should do every day (unless you are a circus showman!) as the novelty and passion becomes routine and people disengage. Knowing when to purposefully and consciously inspire is important, finding the ‘sweet spot’ on when to act can be critical to success and keeping a team moving forward.
A responsible leader understands how to be accountable and knows their limits of power. As a leader, you demonstrate to your employees how they should act and reinforce that everyone in the team is accountable for success and for learning from failure. When you hold yourself responsible for mistakes your employees understand that you expect them to do the same. An accountable person can solve their problems when they face them. They don’t push it off to the next person or blame someone else.
You should also know what you can and can’t do in your role. A successful leader understands their role and the role of their employees so that their workers aren’t given duties that they wouldn’t typically complete. When they are asked to do something unusual, they can become stressed or agitated. After all, they wouldn’t know what to do to solve the assignment they were given.
Purposeful leadership is about conscious application of a broad range of leadership skills in an adaptive way that supports the team and organisation to achieve their potential and strive together for success. These skills and traits, like anything, take practice and effort, and throughout your leadership journey, you will refine, tweak and explore how best to use them and apply them for impact.