Dr. Bob’s Reads: Challenge With Purpose

My purpose is to help all people flourish by creating and supporting healthy organizations. As a part of this purpose, I am committed to finding and sharing best practices and resources regarding purpose-driven leaders, teams and organizations.

Today’s best practice comes from one of my favorite books “The Leadership Challenge, Sixth Edition” written by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. Published in 2017, Kouzes and Posner share their results from over 35 years of research regarding the fundamental question of “What do leaders do when they are at their personal best as a leader?”

A key finding from this research is that when exemplary leaders “challenge current processes to find new and innovative ways to do their work,” they “challenge with purpose.” They share and help all stakeholders understand the why behind the challenge and how it ties to the organization’s purpose / reason for existence.

Key takeaways regarding challenging with purpose:

  • Purpose is a tremendously powerful source of motivation – people cannot persevere for very long without it. (Angela Duckworth; “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”)
  • “Leaders don’t challenge processes simply for challenge’s sake – it’s not about shaking things up to keep people on their toes.”
  • “Exemplary leaders challenge based on a drive to take actions for the better.”
  • “Leaders challenge, usually with great passion, because they want people to live better lives.”
  • “To be fully engaged in the challenge, people need to know the why driving the challenge.”
  • “Meaningfulness thrives when people understand the purpose of their organization and the work they do.”
  • “If people are going to do their best when challenged, they must be internally motivated – their tasks or projects must be intrinsically engaging.”
  • “When it comes to excellence, it’s definitely not “What gets rewarded gets done” – it’s “What is rewarding gets done.”
  • Purpose-driven leaders “tap into people’s hearts and minds, not merely their hands and wallets.”

Bottom Line

At Purpose & Performance Group, we consider Kouzes and Posner’s research on exemplary leadership to be one of the cornerstones when it comes to helping courageous leaders build and sustain healthy organizations. Helping leaders understand and accept “the leadership challenge” creates the necessary foundation for an organization to find and live its purpose. Kouzes and Posner close their book with “the best-kept secret of successful leaders is love; staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations provide and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services.” When we “challenge with purpose” we send a powerful and important message of love to all stakeholders.

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