Purpose-oriented leadership: the shape of the leaders that “goes beyond”

December 17, 2021 | 11:41
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Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of interest in purpose-oriented leadership. With the frequent changes and increasing diversity in the work environment, the leaders who orchestrate the new work of transformation now have to be the stewards of the organisation’s purpose.

Businesses are already scrambling to step up operations in the remaining weeks of the year to make up for months of disruption due to COVID-19. But as the Omicron variant unexpectedly and suddenly appears, these pandemic-drained companies are once again assessing the impact of this new coronavirus variant on their businesses and developing new plans to adapt to the situation. These disruptions are becoming more and more frequent and mastering these challenges has become a critical skill. Purpose-oriented leaders who can show empathy, reduce conflict, establish communication, motivate and navigate teams through unprecedented situations, and turn inspiration into action are the gems at the moment and likely to stay that way in the new now.

New style of leadership formed amid uncertainties

Let us take a look at crises’ unique characteristics: they demand a response; they have an unprecedented impact; and they unfold in unorthodox fashion. And as the crises go through, leaders need not only deliver quick decisions to safeguard the future of the organisation, but also consider setting a course towards the “next normal” to simply bounce back to the status quo and emerge stronger.

Amid the “response phase” – that is, during COVID-19 when uncertainty is everywhere – businesses faced difficulties in maintaining operation, cutting down on cost or caring for employees, among others. The dire situation required leaders to swiftly respond to economic demands as well as the emotional emergency with the same determination.

Purpose-oriented leadership: the shape of the leaders that “goes beyond”
In the time of uncertainties, leaders need to step up and steer the businesses to the goals

Result-oriented leadership emphasis on implementing bold and pragmatic approaches based on economic necessity and organisational DNA to solve the most important issues in a short time. While as human capital experienced turmoil, there was a great demand for people-oriented leaders who could exhibit empathy, compassion, and be willing to emotionally support employees, customers, and ecosystems while maintaining transparency in communication.

By mixing these two leadership styles, purpose-oriented leadership was formed and brought about an increase in performance and people-related outcomes and in turn strengthened businesses’ survivability and opened up the chance for a smooth recovery.

Purpose-oriented leadership in new world of work

Assumptions about the nature of work and how it is organised have gone out of the window since 2020. While most employees felt supported by their organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many have struggled. Furthermore, when some companies are exploring hybrid working models, others are expecting a return to the office, which sets employee concerns and employer expectations further apart.

Never before have organisations experienced a major number of employees who are exhausted and overwhelmed, and they are openly voicing their demand for recognition, collaboration, and purpose in the new world of work.

“Decentralisation, dissolution of boundaries and emphasising on flexibility will be the main features of businesses in the new world of work. Since we are adopting a hybrid work model, it becomes harder to form a sense of community and organisational identity. That is why the role of leaders need to be reshaped in order to use the potential of increased flexibility and innovation to provide meaning, inspiration, and direction to their team so that employees are in cohesion and organisations can move ahead in sync to achieve shared goals,” Nguyen Thi An Ha, head of Strategic Partnership of Talentnet Corporation, shared.

Purpose-oriented leadership: the shape of the leaders that “goes beyond”
Leaders need to be the steward of purpose for employees to move ahead in sync

Purpose-oriented leadership and human resources management will be key drivers of the new work transformation. It is essential to build a new working culture with the four decisive pillars for success suggested by An Ha:

• Inspirational and purpose-oriented leadership: leaders should now focus on developing new business models in an innovative way with consideration for long-term perspective. But they do not only need to ace the tasks, but also to inspire others and own the ability to get all stakeholders, especially their team, on the same boat moving towards the shared goals.

• A culture of trust: trust is the base prerequisite of success. It is crucial that leaders place trust in their employees. By granting a higher degree of autonomy, leaders are empowering their members to act responsibly, nurture self-determination, and shape the company with their own resources.

• Flexible structure: It is time for businesses to retire the “old” hierarchy and adopt a horizontal system as a network. Teams are formed temporarily for certain projects, decisions are decentralised, and collaboration between internal and external experts is encouraged. Under this new model, businesses are enabled to predictable efficiency which gives way to rapid adaptability.

• Employees’ self-competences: leaders may fall into a state of “laissez-faire empowerment” – the passive leadership style found to lead to lowest productivity – if the empowered employees lack the skills to perform the delegated work. It is important for leaders to work with organisations to develop learning plans and provide upskilling, reskilling opportunities for employees to equip themselves with proper knowledge for the work ahead. Furthermore, frequent feedback and encouragement are a great way to boost healthy development of employee’s self-competences.

In summary, the new now defines new work environments, in which inspirational and purpose-oriented leaders are key elements. It is important that leaders reclaim the view of the big picture, develop a sense of purpose. Leaders who can flexibly select the most suitable leadership style, instill effective communication, inspire purposes into the businesses will play a big role in businesses’ recovery and prosperity in the future.

By Thuy Ngan

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