Kingston Business School and Adastrum Consulting launch new ‘leaders with purpose’ model

Executive search and talent advisory business, Adastrum Consulting, and Kingston Business School’s Wellbeing at Work Research Group, today launch a new leadership model – the result of research, which explores the role of ‘purpose’ in leadership.

Much of the current thinking around leadership focuses on static sets of characteristics and the notion of leaders and followers, rather than successful outcomes and the role an organisation can play in achieving them.

The research and resulting working model turns this thinking on its head, by identifying that:

•  A sense of purpose, not a specific set of characteristics, is the key to successful leadership. However, characteristics as well as timing and context can act as barriers or facilitators to purpose

•  A sense of purpose is time bound and there will come a point when a leader’s sense of purpose within a role is fulfilled

•  Leaders with purpose define success as more than business and financial objectives – for example leaving a legacy

•  Those who are identified as leading with purpose are thought to have a strong, clear sense of purpose. However, this does not need to be shared by all members of the organisation, rather the leader needs to translate their goals and objectives in to something meaningful for their team, colleagues, clients and stakeholders

•  A leader’s sense of purpose is more likely to translate to success if certain key facilitators are present, and if certain key barriers are absent/overcome. Facilitators and barriers exist both within (internal) and outside (external) of the person

•  The key internal facilitators are mainly concerned with the leader’s style (their behaviours, thought processes and emotions)

Commenting on the research, Chris Underwood, managing director at Adastrum Consulting says: “What this fascinating and evidence-based research clearly shows, is that a whole new approach to identifying, assessing and validating success in leadership is needed. For too long the spotlight has been on specific sets of static characteristics and a focus on ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’, without taking into account the vital role that a sense of purpose plays.

“While characteristics are important, they are only so as facilitators or barriers to purpose. What is also revolutionary is that a sense of purpose is time bound, and that there will naturally come a point when a leader’s sense of purpose in a role is fulfilled.

“We have long felt that without a strong sense of purpose, leaders cannot be successful, and this new model appears to validate that assumption. I call upon organisations to rethink their approach to leadership, to include a renewed focus on the importance of purpose and providing facilitators and removing barriers to success. In addition, organisations need to really take into account that a leader’s sense of purpose is time-bound and organise their succession planning strategy appropriately.”

Dr Emma L Russell, senior lecturer at Kingston Business School, based at Kingston University adds: “The notion of purpose is, of course, not a new one and has received recent interest in the business and HR world. It appears to synchronise a number of theories of leadership and motivation, and yet limited academic research into leaders with ‘purpose’ exists.

“This research is the result of an academic-expert practitioner collaboration, which is often quite rare in academia! Interestingly, Adastrum Consulting came to us with issues it had seen emerging in the field, and we were able to work with senior leaders in a variety of industry sectors to elucidate what those issues were. This makes the findings very relevant, current and timely.

“In the research we have considered not only the characteristics of those who lead with purpose and those who do not, but also what drives behaviour, how success is defined and how this success is achieved.

“This fascinating and novel research project has brokered new ground in the development of leadership modelling. The resulting model of Leaders with Purpose provides a systemic and unifying explanation of the causes, consequences and moderators of leading with a sense of purpose.

“While still a working model at this stage, it nevertheless has the potential to turn much conventional thinking around leadership on its head.”