‘Purposeful leadership’ makes for a happier, more productive workforce

New research concludes that workforces are happier and more productive in organizations that display “purposeful leadership.”

The study was conducted for the CIPD, a professional association for human resource management professionals with headquarters in London, United Kingdom.

It says that purposeful leadership comprises three elements: clear vision, strong morals, and commitment to stakeholders.

The study suggests that purposeful leadership is about winning hearts and minds and not just drawing up rules and duties. Image: pixabay-261985

It finds that when managers display purposeful leadership, workers are more satisfied, longer-serving, more willing to go beyond the call of duty, perform better, and are less cynical about their organizations.

One of the report authors, Professor Catherine Bailey of the University of Sussex, in the U.K., says:

“Our study shows that the modern workplace is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is one of rules and duties.”

‘Beyond short-termism’

The report says that workers are increasingly expecting employers to show that organizational purpose is more than the bottom line.

People want to see evidence that the organizations they work in are looking “beyond the kind of short-termist, financial imperatives that are blamed by many for causing the 2008 recession,” notes Prof. Bailey.

Workers want leaders that care about wider society and not just themselves – they expect them to display a moral compass, show a strong sense of ethics and “behave with purpose.”

Yet, while the study comes to this conclusion, it also finds that only one in five U.K. managers describe themselves as purposeful leaders, suggesting that there is an untapped opportunity for improving productivity.

Organizations that want to foster purposeful leadership should adopt clear policies, develop their people, promote an open culture, and have senior leaders who role model the appropriate behaviours.

This means that they also have to think about how they select, assess, and develop their leaders, says the report.

‘Develop the whole person’

Co-author Dr. Amanda Shantz, of the University of Greenwich in the U.K., says that traditionally, leadership development tends to focus on the person’s ability to perform in a role.

“Instead,” she says, “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.”

An interesting result in the report is that many people believe that their organization has a vision, but it loses clarity because it keeps changing and loses focus as it is filtered down too many layers.

The vision also suffers from “over-communication leading to fatigue,” note the authors.

The research draws on case studies of five organizations in different sectors. In the report, the organizations have generic names that show which sector they are in, thus: BuildCo, CareCharity, GovDep, PoliceOrg, and RetailCo.

The data was collected through surveys of employees and leaders, interviews, and focus groups, in the five organizations. The researchers also drew on data from the CIPD’s quarterly employee outlook survey which covers a representative sample of the U.K. workforce.

Video – Purposeful Leadership Study

In the following video, Prof. Bailey discusses how they went about the study and what they found.