Each Tuesday afternoon we have a meeting in the International Affairs division at Dallas Baptist University. The purpose of this meeting is to Encourage, Inspire, Pour Into, and Enable our teams in their leadership and their individual purposes within our division. We call this meeting the Purpose & Leadership meeting. This past Tuesday, I shared with the group my personal convictions and beliefs about Purpose.
Reflecting on this past meeting, I also wanted to share with you “Why I do What I do”. I have always felt that in order to do something meaningful, you need to know the motivations or purpose beforehand. As an example for your leadership, I truly desire to share part of the “purpose” journey God has brought me on. I pray it is helpful for you who may be on this same journey now. There are three major areas (The Gospel, My Doctorate, Leading at the Christian University) that I would like to highlight for you in regards to the purpose and motivations behind “Why I do What I do”.
First and foremost, I have highly personally experienced the grace and love of God though our savior Jesus Christ. As a Christian, we refer to this as “The Gospel.” My life has been transformed as a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I have in turn given my life to relentlessly follow Jesus. I see that following Jesus is much more than simply knowing in my mind that He died on the cross for my sins, regular church attendance, or a set of rules to follow. Following Jesus is living his teachings, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and waiting expectantly for his return. By living Jesus’s teaching, I have been led to an understanding of my purpose in life, as well as given a burden heart to serve others.
I believe that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have a purpose in an epic and cosmic plan. I believe this purpose is God revealing and reconciling all things to him, which is the greatest cause known to man. For these purposes, I have greater meaning and more fulfillment than anything I can ever hope to know or achieve on my own. I believe that each of us are called or purposed by God in this same plan, but that we need to follow Jesus before that can be made known to us. In a practical way, I see the purposes of Jesus penetrating all aspects of my life including my job, which I would refer to as a “calling.”
Second, and through my doctoral program, I have encountered a strong understanding for how “purpose” contributes to organizational leadership. As an example Burns (1978) describes this very well in the transformational leadership theory of inspirational motivation. I consider purpose to be a clear understanding for how one makes meaning out of their life, and how this meaning becomes valuable for a cause, for others, and for oneself. Once known, purpose acts as a guiding light and rocket fuel for one’s life or calling.
I believe that great leadership begins with a strong purpose in life (Craig & Snook, 2014; Joshi, Marzalek, Berkel & Hinshaw, 2013; Christensen, 2010; Pink, 2009; Frankl, 1958) and a strong alignment of that purpose to a timeless cause or vision (Kanter, 2011; Mourkogiannis, 2007; French, 2006). Furthermore, I find that exceptional leaders can enable others to pursue a timeless vision or cause by leading from a strong sense of purpose (Csikszentmihalyi, 2003; Brandt, 2003; Boyatzis, McKee & Goleman, 2002; Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1997; Burns, 1978), and it is the result of a strong purpose, and its alignment to timeless vision (or cause), that enables incredible impact on the organization and for those it serves (Kanter, 2011; Mourkogiannis, 2007; Collins & Porras, 1994).
Leading at the Christian University
Third, to help me remember what my purpose is, I have developed a purpose statement. I believe that my purpose in life is to “Model the example of Jesus Christ in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord for my family and circles of influence. I will consistently serve others by helping them to find their purpose, excel in their callings, and grow in their relationship with God.”
This purpose statement embodies the Christian values that I hold most important, and is the way I make meaning of my life, bring value to others, and serve a greater cause. I believe that my purpose in life is best served at the Christian University. As I continue to study the concepts of Organizational Leadership, behavior and theory, I am learning to a greater extent how to successfully hire the right people, put them in the right place, and develop them to believe in and accomplish the purpose of Jesus at the Christian University.
I most identify with what Zigarelli (2012) called the interrelated missions or aims of the Christian University; which are to Train, Transform, and Transition students. By serving as a senior administrator, I am passionately motivated to lead the Christian University into the accomplish this mission. I believe that apart from Christ, higher education does not hold the transformational affect and powerful impact to the world and to the students it serves. In addition, I believe that the future landscape of higher education will change in the years to come. I desire to equip and lead the Christian University through perhaps what could be challenging days ahead. I am particularly interested in advancing the Christian University’s capabilities for administration, international development, and international student recruitment.
It is the gospel resulting from my experience with Jesus, which now gives me a burden heart to serve others. My purpose in life is grounded in the cause of Christ, which fuels my personal leadership philosophy and drives my life and calling. In these ways, I would not consider myself to be just a transformational leader at the Christian University, but a Christian educator who is called to be an “admissionary.” For me at the Christian University, the transformation we are working on does not encompass only efficiencies and effectiveness gained, degrees conferred or jobs attained, but in lives transformed, purposes found, callings excelled, and Jesus Christ made know to others through the work we do!
This is “Why I do What I do”.
– Grey Hoff, Jr.
Bartlett, C. A., and S. Ghoshal., (1997). Beyond Strategy, Structure, Systems to Purpose, Process, People: Reflections on a Voyage of Discovery. Monash Mt. Eliza Business Review 1, no. 1 (September 1997): 54–61.
Brandt, J. R. (May 01, 2003). Managing For A Higher Purpose. Industry Week/iw, 252,5.)
Boyatzis, R., McKee, A., & Goleman, D. (2002). Reawakening your passion for work. Harvard Business Review, 80(4), 86-94.
Burns JM. (1978). Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Christensen, C. M. (2010). How will you measure your life? Harvard Business Review, 88(7), 46-51.
Craig N, S. S. (2014). From purpose to impact: Figure out your passion and put it to work. Harvard Business Review, 92(5), 104-11.
Collins, J.C., & Porras, J.L. (1994). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Good Business: Leadership, flow, and the making of meaning. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Frankl, V. E. (1958). On logotherapy and existential analysis. Am J Psychoanal the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(1), 28-37.
French, M. L. (2006). The alignment between personal meaning and organizational mission among music executives: A study of happiness, job satisfaction, and responsibility toward employees.
Hirsh, S. K., and Kummerow, J. M. (1998). Introduction to Type Organization: Individual Interpretive Guide (3rd ed.). Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.
Kanter, R. M. (2011). How great companies think differently. Harvard Business Review, 89, 11.)
Mourkogiannis, N.,. (2007). Purpose: The starting point of great leadership. LTL Leader to Leader, 2007(44), 26-32
Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
Zigarelli, M. (2012). Training, Transforming, and Transitioning: A Blueprint for the Christian University. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 21: 32-79, 2012.
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Purpose is the guiding principle for why something is done. When you understand your purpose in life, and how it is connected with your vocation, a particular project, or task, these things take on an entirely new shape. Understanding the WHY gives you powerful perspective for the HOW and the WHAT.
While I believe that purpose can be the single greatest motivator for you in the workplace, and that aligning your purpose to the organization’s mission will ignite the rocket fuel you have — Purpose is not a Magic Word.
Purpose takes Focus
When you try to shoot a bow and arrow, it requires you to close one eye, squint, and focus very hard at the center of a target. Expert marksman train tirelessly in order to aim and hit the middle of the target. Just the same purpose requires you to focus tirelessly on who you are, what your life experiences have shown you, and a firm understanding of how you can use these things to serve others in the future. These things will be very abstract and ambiguous to start, but focusing on them over and over again, they will become clearer. Purpose takes focus.
Purpose takes Repetition
Purpose is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger in gets. Disciplined repetition and focus will serve you very well when trying to learn about your purpose. When you find something great about yourself, a skill, a passion, a behavior trait that you have been given, focus on it and repeat it. Just like the muscle, keep practicing with it, over and over again. The strongest performers are those who will invest in a daily practice of reinforcement and refinement.
I believe the things God has placed into your hands are “whispers from him” for your purpose in life. Focus on them, and repeat your use of them.
Purpose takes Time
Purpose starts off as an abstract, ambiguous, big ball of mess at the beginning. Frankly speaking, when I first talk to other people about purpose, I usually get some sort of blank stare or confused smirk on their face. Many people give up on dedicating the time to consistently look at their skills & abilities, personality & behavior, as well as passions & desires as the “bread crumbs” God leaves behind, pointing to your purpose.
Don’t give up! Purpose takes focus; it takes repetition, and also time to unlock.
Purpose is something you Live
There is no doubt in my mind that you have been called and have been purposed by God for greatness. I know this because you are still alive, breathing, and reading this blog post. God doesn’t need to use us, but he chooses to do it.
I am reminded of an excellent quote from Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church; “Everyone who is born dies, but not everyone who dies has truly lived. God does not want you and me to die full of potential. He wants you to live for something worth dying for. When Christ’s cause truly underpins your life, you will discover meaning and purpose, and your life will never be the same again.”
Purpose is not some magic word to throw around. It is an individual’s unique and timeless idea of how they will bring meaning to the lives of others, to themselves, and ultimately to the Kingdom of God. Once you understand your purpose, it’s something that penetrates and motivates all aspects of your life. It’s something you live!
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Think about someone in your life who was an exceptional leader.
What made this person stand out in your mind as an exceptional leader? Most likely, this leader accomplished something noteworthy; an extraordinary action that you were able to witness. Many times we attribute exceptional leadership to the extraordinary results that were accomplished.
As we discovered previously, exceptional leaders do not focus on just the results they aim for. For great leaders, results come as an aftermath of focusing on a timeless purpose or worthy cause. That’s not to say that leaders do not want great things to happen. In fact, that is the contrary.
Exceptional leaders realize that when they passionately lead with purpose, and they effectively shares their dreams, extraordinary things can happen.
When examining further how great leaders inspire great action, we found that followers were motivated to greater extents and performed to higher levels when there existed an alignment or sharing of purpose. Furthermore, it was found that when leaders led from a strong sense of purpose (or cause), they found greater meaning in their work, had greater influence, and tended to perform to higher extents than those who did not.
Think about Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, or Gandhi for instance. These men led extraordinary causes, which ended up changing ideas, people, and society forever. What did these men have in common? Well, they led with purpose, had a powerful vision, and then extraordinary action took place.
A prominent author on the subject of purpose, Nikos Mourkogiannis (2007), outlines that purpose is the starting point for great leadership. “Whether that is shareholders, board members, or constituents, finding and fulfilling a purpose that fits the identify of the organization is the foundation and starting point for greatness.”
Furthermore, Mourkogiannis (2007) states that, “when a company is driven by a shared purpose, its morale will be higher, the quality of innovation will improve, its internal and external relationships will be strengthened, and its leaders will be able to point the way forward with conviction.”
The topic of purpose is also a constant strand in Transformational Leadership expert James MacGregor Burns’ (1978) writing who says; “there is nothing so power-full, nothing so effective, nothing so causal as common (or shared) purpose . . . leadership is nothing if not linked to collective purpose”.
Lastly, emotional Intelligence experts and authors, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee, and Daniel Goleman (2002) also highlight that “leaders cannot keep achieving new goals and inspiring the people around them without understanding the meaning of their own dreams.”
It is the constant of purpose, meaning, and timeless vision that seem to propel exceptional leaders to produce extraordinary action in their organizations and through their people.
As a leader, it is quite clear that understanding these concepts of purpose has tremendous benefit for your leadership, your team, and your organization. Exceptional action is possible when you lead from a strong purpose, and communicate a powerful, contagious vision.
The question is, will you take the time to find your purpose?
Boyatzis, R., McKee, A., & Goleman, D. (2002). Reawakening your passion for work. Harvard Business Review, 80(4), 86-94.
Burns JM. (1978). Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Mourkogiannis, N.,. (2007). Purpose: The starting point of great leadership. LTL Leader to Leader, 2007(44), 26-32.
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Theories on organizational leadership philosophy have continued to evolve over the decades.
In the 1840s, leadership theory stated that great leaders were born not made. Later in the 1930s, trait theory emerged to describe great leadership as based upon certain physical qualities or social traits. At this point, great leaders could either be born or made, but only by associating with certain great leadership traits. Behavioral theories emerged in the 1940s focusing on the cause and affect of certain leadership behaviors toward their followers. Leadership theory now suggested the great leaders could be taught. Contingency (or situational) leadership theories came on the scene in the 1960s. Later, in the 1970s we began to see transaction leadership, such as leader-member exchange. Leadership became a mutual activity between the leader and follower. Finally, we saw the introduction of transformational leadership and servant leadership in the 1970s. Leadership became about behavior, inspiration, and most importantly a mutual relationship between follower and leader.
A Changing of the Guard
Arguably, two of the greatest change drivers facing organizations today are that of increased globalization and the shifting of our workforce to the millennial generation. It is these two factors that are changing the entire business environment we live in today. First, the landscape has changed. We are and will continue to do business in a globalized world. Second, the people have changed.
Today, globalized organizations are currently undergoing a radical shift into a millennial driven workforce. When the landscape changes, and the people change, everything changes. We are currently undergoing, what I like to call a changing of the guard for organizational leaders. Therefore, the way we lead the organization needs to change. It is based upon the two ideas of increased globalization and the deployment of millennial into the workforce, where we believe the theories of organizational leadership need to evolve once again.
In order for the leader to meet the new demands of the globalized, millennial driven workforce, we must embrace a purpose-centered leadership philosophy. The two aspects of purpose-centered leadership, purpose for the individual and purpose for the organization, seek to align an individual’s purpose (meaningful work, values and experiences) with the organization’s corporate purpose (values and cause).
The first aspect of purpose-centered leadership takes into account Vicktor Frankl’s (1958) theoretical work of will to meaning and applies three distinct notions for purpose as a motivator for organizational leadership theory:
- Purpose will involve pursuing meaningful activities for the employee within their vocation.
- Employees need to understand how these meaningful activities bring value or make meaning of past circumstances to themselves and potentially provide benefit to others.
- The employee’s meaningful work needs to be in alignment to a worthy cause.
It is through the alignment of these three elements of will to meaning (meaningful work, alignment and identification of values to meaningful work, and the alignment of meaningful work to a worthy cause) where purpose can become the highest motivator for us as individuals and as leaders in the organization.
The second aspect of purpose-centered leadership involves how the organization views and utilizes purpose for their members:
As a purpose-centered leader it is our duty to identify, articulate, and share the corporate purpose amongst employees of our organizations. The corporate purpose is how an organization sees and defines purpose internally and for its stakeholders. A corporate purpose communicates the powerful aspect of purpose for the organization, and it can ultimately provide the point of alignment for a worthy cause as discussed in Frankl’s will to meaning work.
The sharing of the corporate purpose involves facilitating the alignment between the members of our organization and the corporate purpose (Finely, 2009; Springett, 2004; Bartlet & Ghoshal, 1997; Burns 1978). To help embody this idea, prominent author and transformational leadership authority, James MacGregory Burns (1978) writes; “there is nothing so power-full, nothing so effective, nothing so causal as common (or shared) purpose . . . leadership is nothing if not linked to collective purpose”. (p. 3).
It is proposed that when leaders facilitate the alignment of these two aspects of purpose-centered leadership, the individual and the organization will experience this tremendous drive of purpose. Not only will this result is both performing to greater extents than others who do not, but both the individual and organization will share in the creation of meaningful work, which benefits both entities and society at large. This is where the tremendous value for purpose-centered leadership comes into play.
Bartlett, C. A., and S. Ghoshal., (1997). Beyond Strategy, Structure, Systems to Purpose, Process, People: Reflections on a Voyage of Discovery. Monash Mt. Eliza Business Review 1, no. 1 (September 1997): 54–61.
Burns JM. 1978. Leadership. Harper & Row: New York.
Finley, D. C. (2009). What’s your purpose?: Steps to creating a purpose-driven business. Journal of Financial Planning, , 18-19.
Frankl, V. E.,. (1958). On logotherapy and existential analysis. Am J Psychoanal the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(1), 28-37.
Springett, N.,. (2004). Corporate purpose as the basis of moral leadership of the firm. Strategic Change, 13, 297-308.
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No one likes the “pit of their stomach feeling” when they are lost. Feeling lost and uncertain can be incredibly uncomfortable. These feelings can often occur when organizations encounter change. Many times change at work leaves us with these same feelings of being lost and confused. Being lost at work can feel like being trapped in a large maze that you can’t get out of. No one wants to have these feelings, especially with their work.
While organizational change is essential for short-term competitiveness and long-term survival, it does pose daunting managerial challenges for the leader (Luscher & Lewis, 2008). According to Kanter, Stien, and Jick (1992), managing change has become one of the most important responsibilities for the organizational leader.
Today, organizations are continuously engaged in some form of change, yet many major change projects rarely succeed in their efforts (Taylor-Bianco & Schemerhorn, 2006). In order for change implementation to happen successfully, leaders need to drive change forward while also managing the expectations and emotions of their team.
Change can cause ambiguity and uncertainty, which in turn can cause fear, negativity, and even hostility within the organization.
As a leader, it is our job to show others through the ambiguous maze by helping our teams “make sense” of change.
“Sense making” is an effort by the leader to create orderly and coherent understandings that enable change (Luscher & Lewis, 2008). Team members in fact “make sense” of why a change is taking place.
Think about this for a moment. When we have clear expectations and directions in front of us we tend to feel anchored and have a great sense of stability and security. This is because we have an idea of where we should be going and we have something to follow. In other words, we can “make sense” of the change and the new direction we’re heading. By making the ambiguous clear through helping team members “make sense” of change, organizations can conquer the negativity that is sometimes seen alongside widespread change.
I think we as leaders can make the most sense of change when we align a few important elements together.
What I mean is, we need to align PURPOSE, with MISSION/VISION, and the organization’s PLANS in order for CHANGE to happen successfully. This has to be done in a relevant way that “makes sense” for our teams. During periods of change, people need to be reminded of the PURPOSE for the organization, they need to picture the idealized future they are trying to get to by a clear VISION, and understand how their daily job responsibilities contribute to the PLANS that are made, which will ultimately enable the CHANGE to take place.
PURPOSE + VISION + PLANS = CHANGE
It’s the leader’s role to lead the way through change, but embodying a clear and timeless PURPOSE, communicating an inspirational VISION, and artfully guiding the PLAN for their team.
Remember, when people are empowered, released, and have a sense of vision and leadership that inspires, people will flourish (Houston, 2008).
With your help, people can make it through the maze!
Houston, B., 2008. For This I was Born: Aligning Your Vision to God’s Cause. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Kanter, R. M., Stein, B. A., & Jick, T. D. 1992. The challenge of organizational change: How companies experience and leaders guide it. New York: Free Press.
Luscher, L. S., Lewis, M. W., 2008. Organizational Change and Managerial Sensemaking: Working Through Paradox. Academic of Management Journal, 51; 221-240.
Taylor-Bianco, A., & Schermerhorn, J. 2006. Self-regulation, strategic leadership and paradox in organizational change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 19: 457–470.
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I love the quote from Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
I have thought about this quote often while at Dallas Baptist University. There are a number of questions that I ask myself about producing other leaders:
“How do we create other leaders at DBU?”
“How are we creating a culture of leadership development in our office?”
“How is my office a leader making factory?”
One way that I believe a leader can create other leaders is through delegation of responsibility. For a leader, delegation is essentially asking someone else to complete a task. That may sound strange, but I promise it has everything to do with leadership development. Let me explain:
1) Think about delegation and training as complementary. They go hand and hand.
When I assign a task onto a colleague I have much more in mind than just getting that task accomplished. I consider delegation (or asking someone else to complete a task) a method of training as well. When it comes to delegation, I am thinking about the experience that employee with go through, what skills they will pick up, and the opportunities they will have to learn to improve their professional development.
I am looking to train our team through the tasks or projects we assign. There is a good amount of effort we go through to look at our team, as well as the work we need to complete, when it comes to delegation. We attempt to meet some of our training needs through delegation at DBU.
2) Connect the delegation (task) to the person.
When you start thinking about delegation as not just trying to get the work done, but also as an opportunity to develop your employees, it changes the way you will assign tasks.
Let me give you an example; when I look at large projects or tasks to be completed in our office, I routinely think about our team. A couple of routine questions that I ask them along the way are:
“What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? Why?”
“What do you need to learn to be effective in that role?”
“What tasks or projects would you like to be apart of in this office? Why?”
“What are the tasks or projects that you have enjoyed in this office? Why?”
“What are the tasks or projects that you have not liked doing in this office? Why?”
The reason I ask these questions is because I want to understand further about our team. I think about what professional experiences they have and also what their future career aspirations are. I am searching to learn more about their calling and the purpose that God has for them.
In the end, I am seeking to connect their callings and professional development to the tasks or projects I assign them. I am hoping to make the work relevant, valuable, and practical for them.
My desire is to help others reach their full potential in front of God so that He can use them to their maximum potential. I want our office to be a leader making factory.
For Hayden, who says he wants to learn more about finance and desires be an analyst, I am assigning him the tasks that afford him opportunities to grow this skill set. Plus, we tend to get excellent work done from him.
Not only have I found this to be very effective in their professional development, their future callings, but I have also found that job performance and job satisfaction seem to be higher as well.
3) The value is not in the task, but in the trust.
It is essential to have high trust relationships with those you work with. Having a high performing team, that is making a positive impact on your clients, department, and organization, is all about establishing and maintaining high levels of trust. You cannot work well with someone who you do not trust.
So, what does delegation have to do with trust?
Well, consistent delegation to employees by way of not only completing the work, but also by assigning tasks that enable growth and experience, will help to engender trust.
When it comes delegation, it’s much more than just the work you are trying to accomplish. It’s the imparting of the skills and habits that will transform the behavior, and eventually the character of the person you are delegating to. As a leader, it’s about helping to produce other leaders.
Once your team understands that it is just as much about their development as it is about completing the work, trust will soon follow. Your team will learn you have good interests for them, that you care for them, and they will follow you for it.
Higher performance will also soon follow, and you will have a group of people that will quite literally pour their hearts and efforts out for you and the organization.
4) Discipline produces habits, habits eventually transform into character. Character builds trust.
Trust in your team is also critical to you as a leader. You have to trust your team. You have to confidently know that they are capable, able, and are completing their work.
Have you ever assigned a task and then wondered if it ever got done? Well, that is not trusting your employees.
Through delegating tasks, you can create an environment for building trust. Experience by experience, delegation by delegation, the leader should coach employees to follow through and follow up with assignments. This is especially important with new employees, it is important to help develop a discipline, which will turn into habits, and eventually a character that builds trust.
The long-term value of having an employee you can implicitly trust is much greater than the time you will give in delegating work and training them.
When you do this, you can assign a task and know confidently that the work is completed well. For the leader, this is such a great situation and peace of mind.
By engendering these four suggestions, consistently modeling this behavior, I believe this is one practical way for you as a leader to produce other leaders in your organization.
Give it a shot. You may just see some incredible things happen!
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There has not been a shortage of criticism for the millennial generation and their recent entry into the workforce. Heavily entitled, lacking communication skills, as well as critical thinking abilities, many believe the millennial generation wanders into the workforce unprepared, and lacking motivation to perform at expected levels. Millennial, if you want to know what I am talking about, check out the blog titled: The Top Job Skills Needed for Future Graduates.
As we look at the state of the workforce, and the development needs of our millennial generation, I believe a primary reason for this lack of preparedness in the millennial is due to a gap between their purpose (or) personal meaning, and a connection of personal meaning to their vocations.
The Millennial Difference
Today the millennial generation focuses much of its attention on careers that have a strong sense of meaning, fun, or exciting work, as well as opportunities for personal, professional, and intellectual growth. For the millennial, compensation and security does not hold the same powerful motivation to perform at one’s job as it did for their parent’s generation. For the millennial it is much more about the adventure and the impact!
Second, the millennial generation wants to feel a part of their organization, many times they want to be a part of a community. The millennial wants to do work together, they want to know they are valued, and they want to know you will be alongside them through the journey. For an example, read the previous blog titled: Let’s do War, Together.
This is very interesting to know, because if you are an organizational leader with a millennial team, then you cannot utilize the same development and motivation techniques used with previous generations. The way to motivate the millennial subset of the workforce is vastly different than the generations ahead of them, IE: the baby-boomers, generation x.
I have found that directly mentoring a millennial worker is an excellent source of motivation and increased job performance. Specifically, I suggest having intentional conversations on purpose, meaning, personal self-discovery and their future outlook.
I have found that when the millennial identifies a purpose for their life (or at least begins that self-exploration journey), and then connects that purpose to their vocation, their job takes on a relevance and personal meaningfulness that might otherwise lack. As a result, job performance sky-rockets. In this way, purpose can serve as an important source of achievement motivation.
As the millennial generation continues to become of age and enters the workforce, we as organizational leaders must take the opportunity to engender trust and motivate this new group of workers by aiding them to the discover their purpose (or) meaning and connect that to their organization and their job. This connection of purpose to an individual’s job responsibility resonates heavily to some of the values that the millennial generation holds to be of critical importance. IE: sense of meaning, exciting work, personal and intellectual growth. In fact, the millennial is willing to constantly job hop in order to find these things.
In short, give it a shot to mentor the millennial. Have regular, intentional conversations. Take “teachable moments” to show them new ideas or something valuable they do not know (you may even learn a thing or two yourself). Help the millennial find purpose in themselves and their work. I promise you will not be disappointed!
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You will find many definitions for what exceptional leadership looks like. In fact, exceptional leadership can often times be relative to the environment of the leader. However, I have noticed that there seems to be three trends which are present with exceptional leadership. First, exceptional leadership begins with a Purpose, being the foundation. Second, exceptional leaders have a timeless Vision, or communicating dreams into reality, and third exceptional leaders inspire great Action, which are the results of a purpose being fulfilled through a timeless vision.
I would like to take a few moments to talk about what Purpose in leadership looks like:
Having a well defined Purpose is a critical foundation for exceptional leadership. Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”. In other words, this is your “WHY”. When you relate purpose to yourself or to your leadership, the question is “WHY” are you here? “WHY” do you even bother? “WHY” do you lead? The answer to this questions is far beyond just making money, or having a secure job. We are not talking about management, this is exceptional leadership. Exceptional leaders are compelled by something greater that just monetary gain. Exceptional leaders are compelled by a clear, well define Purpose.
To expand further, exceptional leaders possess three key elements when it comes to purpose: (1) a greater than average sense of purpose in life and meaning; resulting from a heightened level of self-awareness, (2) a strong understanding of what their organization’s purpose is and, (3) a belief that they are fulfilling their purpose in life which fits with the identity of the organization they are leading.
Without having a clear understanding of your purpose in life, you will not be able to grow to the most exceptionally leader that you could be. Let me give you a few examples; Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Steven Jobs, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and countless other authentic leaders were each driven by a deep understanding of what they or their organization was trying to do. They were led by their deep sense of purpose, which was communicated through their vision, and put into action by their decisions.
The first step for taking your leadership to the next level, and even understanding “WHY” you yourself exists, is defining your purpose in life.
This past year, I began a new journey in my life when I started my doctoral program in organizational leadership. As I interacted with other leaders from across the country, I ran into a powerful idea … Purpose. Throughout my coursework, I grappled with and researched further as to what purpose meant for leadership. My results were compelling, almost all of the leaders I perceived to be exceptional, had a well defined purpose in life. Furthermore, their purpose was timeless and was not motivated by extrinsic rewards (such as money, recognition, or power).
What I also found to be interesting was; Leaders who lead with a strong purpose, and also aligned to the organization’s mission that they lead, tend to perform to greater extents than others that do not.
Praying through these ideas, seeking guidance from God and others I trust, I established my own purpose statement which is a reminder for me on my purpose in life. Here is what I believe to be my purpose in life:
Model the example of Jesus Christ in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord for my family and circles of influence, consistently serve others by influencing them to find their purpose, excel in their callings, and point them toward God.
I will accomplish this by:
- Modeling Jesus Christ’s example, and letting everything that I say, do, touch and have influence over be honoring to God.
- Helping others to find their purpose life by mentoring and developing them to become more effective in their vocations.
- Leading within Higher Education, helping institutions become the most effective environment to teach others How to Think and to Choose for themselves and developing others to have the ability to tell the difference between a groundless argument and one based on fact or logic.
- Building Trust relationships.
- Growing in Transformational leadership.
- Transforming others into a life with Jesus Christ.
- Passion is something that I will pass on …. I will do it with God’s love!
My purpose for writing this is so that you can spend time in front of God asking him to reveal your purpose in life to you. I pray that God can use you to authentically lead with Purpose and Vision to produce extraordinary Action for His Kingdom!
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Over this past month I have had the opportunity to visit the countries of China and India to talk about education. Specifically, higher education. In fact, I am actually writing this blog while I am flying from Hyderabad to Mumbai, India.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I believe that we each have a purpose in this life. Purpose is a deep rooted belief that what you are doing has meaning and value not only for yourself but also for those around you. Purpose can be associated with finding meaning in your vocation, within your family, your church, or through the personal activities you participate in. Purpose is timeless.
Over the last 3-years, I have traveled to over twelve countries in the developing world. During my travels, I have learned that we all long for purpose and meaning in this world. This is where I believe education has its role. I believe that the university is a mechanism that God uses to unlock purpose for the individual.
Education is valuable everywhere. In China, families save their entire lives to send their one and only child to study at a university in the United States. In Indonesia, church pastors desire for their entire congregations to know how their children can prepare for university study. In Colombia, students travel to an entirely different continent, culture, and city in order to learn English so that they have a hope to provide a better life for their families. There is not one country that I have traveled to which is not longing for education, and ultimately purpose and meaning in their lives.
Within education, the university is such an excellent place for students begin the self-discovery journey in front of God to find their purpose. The university is a melting pot of sorts. It is the place where you take students and create an intentional environment of learning. Here students interact with information and theory, as well as develop socially, emotional and spiritually, through experience. The hopeful result is to see a transformation in their lives, a “lightbulb experience”, where through these experiences students discover how their skills & abilities, personality & behavior, passions & desires come together and can be used to transition them into a life of purpose and meaning.
The result of higher education should be a person who can independently think and choose for themselves, can tell the difference between a groundless idea or one based on logic, and can positively use their energies in a way to impact their world and their communities.
The sociological, economical and humanitarian benefits to education are many. Right now, 95%+ of this world does not have a college education. This is an unlimited market for transformation to occur. This is an almost never ending supply of people who could be guided to find their purpose and understand how they a have reason for living! I believe God has a plan to use education as this mechanism to point people to Him and help them to unlock their purpose.
I am excited for the potential that education has for this world! I am excited to see how education can change the world!
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Over the past month I have been involved in a study to examine the leadership styles for a variety of senior-level administrators at different higher education universities around the United States. The goal of our research group was determine if there are particular types, or styles of leadership that are most prevalent at the American higher education institution.
The results of our findings (from the group of senior-leaders we interviewed) indicate that all leaders display characteristics from a particular approach to leadership, described as Transformational Leadership.
So, what is Transformational Leadership?
Transformational Leadership is a approach to leadership that ehances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of the organization; being a role model for followers that inspires them and makes them interested; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance (Bass & Avolio, 1994).
Transformational Leadership can be additionally described by the following four elements:
1) Idealized Leadership
- Being role models; modeling the way
- Considers the needs of others over his/her own need
- Is consistent and shares risks with follower
- Does the right things and demonstrates high standards of conduct
- Avoids using power for personal gain
2) Inspirational Motivation
- Provide meaning and challenge to follower’s work.
- Display enthusiasm and optimism.
- Involves followers in envisioning desired future states.
- Arouses a team spirit.
- Clearly communicate expectations and goals.
- Inspires a shared vision.
3) Intellectual Stimulation
- Employees participate in decision making and are encouraged to be innovative and creative by questioning assumptions, re-framing problems and trying new approaches to existing problems
- Does not publicly criticize for mistakes.
- Does not criticize an employee’s opinions if different from the leaders, rather rewards “out of the box” thinking.
4) Individualized Consideration
- Pays attention to their employees’ needs for achievement and growth through coaching and mentoring.
- New learning opportunities are created in a supportive climate.
- Individual differences are recognized and accepted.
- Communication effectively and practices “management by wandering around”
- Sees the individual as a whole person, not an employee.
- Delegates tasks to assist in developing others.
- Monitors to provide support and direction, not to check up on people.
Another great model describing some practical examples of Transformational Leadership can be found from the authors Kouzes & Posner: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model
This research study got me to thinking, is this coincidence, or did these administrators, from all different parts of the country mind you, stumble upon a leadership style that is truly most effective? Moreover, do leaders that embody these characteristics seem to make the greatest contribution to their organizations and onto others? Is this is why they have risen to the ranks of senior-leadership at these institutions?
My conclusions have lead me to the belief that this is not coincidence. I believe these leaders all identify with this particular approach to leadership because it is most effective. Additionally, each of the leaders we studied all have a “timeless purpose” they are committed to. This purpose helps to define their meaning, a meaning in which they believe that they are creating a “life changing” impact on the people, communities and world around them. I believe this is why Transformational Leadership seems to resonate the strongest from these leaders.
So, the last question, are you a Transformational Leader?
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