Purpose-Driven Leadership


Leadership is ability to influence others to works towards the achievement of a specific purpose. In this presentation, I will like to explain leadership with the concept I describe as the Leadership Equation. From the definition of leadership above, it is clear that the ultimate goal of leadership is to achieve a defined purpose. Therefore we can say that:


However, in the real life, we know that a leader cannot achieve this purpose alone. So there is the need to introduce an enabling factor into the leadership equation. And that enabling and indispensable factor is people. By introducing people factor the leadership equation becomes:


The question that comes to mind now is this, does it mean we can achieve our desired purpose just by bringing a leader and people together? The answer of course is no. If it is possible to achieve a purpose by bringing leader and people together, every organization and nation will be successful. And we all know it is not every organization that is successful. And likewise, it is not every nation that is successful. So if that is the case, it means there is a very important factor that is missing in the leadership equation. That important factor is “influence.” So the leadership equation will now look like this:


Now from here, we can define leadership as ability to influence people to achieve a defined purpose. From this definition and considering the fact that a purpose cannot be achieved by just combining a leader and people, it is very obvious that influence is a very vital requirement for successful leadership. Therefore, it will be nice for us to look at how leaders attempt to influence their followers to achieve their defined purpose.

How to gain Influence

Actually, there are two major means through which somebody can influence others to achieve his objective or purpose. The first one is the Positional Approach (Armed Robber’s Approach) the second one is Trust and Respect Approach.

Positional Approach (Armed Robber’s Approach)

This is a situation where the leader depends solely on the power of his position to influence people. This is the lowest level of leadership. John Maxwell, the leadership guru confirms this in his book, Developing the Leader Within you. In this book he categorized leaders into five groups in what he calls “The Five Levels of Leadership.” The lowest level of leadership according to his categorization is leadership by position. Ironically, in Africa most people who occupy top leadership position in both corporate and public are on the lowest level of leadership development process. This probably explains why it is difficult to find organizations who outlived their founders and why nearly all the countries in Africa are underdeveloped despite the presence abundant mineral resources.

Leaders on this level earn their influence by instilling fear of punishment in people. Such leader adopt carrot and stick approach only. They rely solely on their position to force people to dance to their tune. Really people in this category are not leaders; they are at best can be referred to as managers.

This approach is similar to armed robbers’ tactics. Armed robbers use their position of possessing a gun or other dangerous weapons to get people do what they want. When a robber put a gun on my head, at that point he has the POWER to influence me to do whatever he wants me to do. That is why somebody defined power as the ability of A to make B do what B ordinarily would not do. Leadership is neither power nor position but influence. John Maxwell, one of the prominent leadership gurus said, “A position does not make you a leader, it only gives you the opportunity to lead.”

If you influence people solely through fear, it means people follow you because of the power you have as a result of your position. Then, the big question is what happens when you are no longer in that position? What do you think will happen if the gun is taken away from you? What do you think will happen to your sphere of influence if you are no longer in position to control the carrot and the stick? Will people still follow you? I can bet it with you, just like an armed robber who is dispossessed of his weapon, you will suddenly become powerless without your position and lose all your influence. If you operate this strategy, always remember that any position you occupy today is not going to be forever. Nothing except change is constant in this world. One day the inevitable will happen, the forces of change will manifest themselves and you either live the position or the position will be taken away from you.

This approach has a lot of inherent problems when it is adopted by a leader in corporate world. Notable among the problems are:

It is not enduring – The approach cannot stand the test of time.When you depend on this approach, your ability to influence people is strictly tied to your position. So when you lose the position your capacity to influence disapears.

It is not cost effective – When you gain people’s influence through fear, people follow you only because of salary or money you pay them. Your capacity to influence people depend on money or other material things you can offer them. When you get people to work solely because of material reward, you can never get the best out of them. What you have is just a bunch of uncommitted people who are ready to jump out at any time the competition offers higher price. The implication of this is that you can only retain your good hands by constantly increasing their pay.

Low staff morale, and lack dedication – Leaders of organisations who employ fear to gain the influence of their employees end up with bunch of highly disgruntled staff. Such situation leads low productivity.

High staff turnover – Disgruntled staff are not only less productive, they are also busy looking for slightest opportunity to jump on board with any of the competitors. And we should not forget that high staff turnover has negative impact on productivity and profitability.

It cannot work in a voluntary organization setting – This approach cannot work in a voluntary organization where people are not paid to do the work. In such scenarios people follow the leader majorly because of the respect they have for the leader.

Trust and Respect Approach

Having highlighted the drawbacks of influencing people through fear, let us examine the alternative approach. That is, influencing people to achieve a given purpose because of the trust and respect they have for you. This is a leadership style where people are influence to do whatever is necessary to achieve a set purpose when they don’t have to do it. When you operate at this level, the influence is coming majorly because of trust and the respect people have for you and not out of fear of punishment. What this means essentially is that you are not necessarily a leader just because you occupy a position. The effectiveness of your leadership ability is a function of level of the trust and respect people have for you and not the level of fear they have for you. When you operate at this realm, you become better and more productive with relatively minimal cost.

This approach employs the 3Cs of leadership to influence people. The 3Cs of leadership are:

  • Character      – This is needed for a leader to earn people’s trust. People will never      trust a leader with character flaw.
  • Competence      – This is required for a leader to earn respect. There is no way people      can respect somebody who does not know his job.
  • Courage –      The ability to act when things are tough is an indispensable trait a      leader must have to command the respect of his people.

Now someone might be wondering, how do I earn the trust and respect of other people? So let us examine how this can be done.

How to Earn people’s Trust

Trust is not automatic, it has to be earned. John Maxwell said, “Trust is not given nor can it be assumed simply because you have leadership position with others. Trust has to be earned and it usually comes when you are tested.” Let me illustrate this with a very simple but common scenario. If a child is chastised by his mother, he seldom holds it against her. But if the same child is staying with an uncle if the uncle’s wife chastises him, most likely he will hold it against her for a very long time.  What do you think is the difference between the two situations? It is just a matter of trust. In the first case, the boy believes the mum was acting in his best interest, hence he trusts the mum. But in the other case he does not trust the uncle’s wife so he does not believe the woman could be acting in his best interest. As a leader, you can earn people’s trust through the following means.

  • Be committed to the people. Be genuinely interested in them. Tend to people and they will tend to the business with all their hearts. As a leader, if you focus only on the business, most likely you end up losing the people and the business. But if you focus on people, you develop the people and inevitably grow the business.
  • Build relationship with your people. Leadership is people business. As a leader you cannot lead the building and equipment you have in there. You need people to man the building and equipment to achieve your goal. People -human resources is an indispensable factor of production whether you like it or not. And unlike other factors of production they have feelings and emotions. Your relationship with your people determines their emotion towards you. If you have positive relationship with them, they will have positive emotions towards you and consequently trust you. As a result they will be willing to follow you. But if you have negative relationship with them, they will have negative emotions towards you and the level of trust will be very low if at all there is any.
  • Positive Character Traits: You need positive character traits such as integrity, self-discipline. Integrity – Doing the right thing whether you are being monitored or not. You must be consistently honest. Self-discipline – Doing the right thing whether it is convenient or not. Your decisions should be based on principles. Your actions should be in alignment with the organization’s core ideology. The      core ideology is the organization’s purpose and core values. We are going  to look at this in greater details later.

How to Earn Respect from People

Leaders don’t demand respect, rather they earn it. Margret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain said that: “if a woman has to announce to people that she is a woman before we know it, she is probably not a woman.” Similarly, if a leader has to demand for respect from his people, he is surely not a leader. People will naturally respect you when you have the following traits:

  • Competence      – Problem solving capacity
  • Courage –      ability to stand-up to challenges

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this write-up. If you are blessed by this message, please forward it to your loved ones. If you’d like to have this topic presented as a seminar in your organization, kindly contact me on: +2348023277203 or send an e-mail to muyiwaokeola@gmail.com

Thank you for reading


About muyiwaokeola

Positive Transformation Agent
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One Response to Purpose-Driven Leadership

  1. Ojo Sanni says:

    May God bless you for this article.

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