Five Steps To Purpose Driven Leadership – Step 3: Serve and Lead


Leadership is not a position; it is an attitude.

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Five Steps to Purpose Driven Leadership Step 3 Serve and Lead
Five Steps to Purpose Driven Leadership Step 3 Serve and Lead

A purposeful leader without a sharp vision is not a leader, it is an administrator. Develop a vision, create a framework for execution, put team and greater purpose first. 

Leadership is not a position; it is an attitude. 

At the beginning of my professional career as a project manager, the company introduced a new project management methodology. The goal was to shorten project duration times, avoid failures and reduce project costs. My responsibility was to build a web portal for providing online services. For that project, I had to introduce the new project management methodology. Together with the key team, we sat down for a week to plan the project. We ended up with a detailed 200-line-item project plan. I was asked to present this project plan in the next customer steering meeting.

After 5 minutes the customer executive director stopped me and told me to come back when I am ready to explain, what they will get out of the project, how long it will take and how do I ensure that I will deliver what I have promised. My manager apologized for me and promised the customer executive board that he will help me revising the plan and we will come back in two weeks.

Next day I created a One-Pager with the requested information from the executive director.

  • What you will get out of the project:
    • Your customers will be able to get on online price information, can book the shipment online and can trace and track their shipments via that portal
  • How long will it take:
    • 2 months for defining the business processes, months for development and infrastructure set up and 2 months for pre-production testing with external users 
  • How will we ensure to deliver what has been promised:
    • Focus on the definition and monitoring of the deliverables instead of the project tasks only 

I showed it to my manager, which explained to me that this is not acceptable, we need to present it according to the new methodology. We sat down another week, together with my manager and extend the project plan with additional information. 

At the next steering committee meeting my boss himself presented the revised project plan. After 5 minutes the customer executive director got angry and asked us if we have not listened to his request last time. 

A long story short, I pulled out my One-Pager, took the audience with me and finally delivered what I have promised. 

Even the leadership position was with my manager, I was perceived as the leader since then. 

The parable from the bricklayers

A man observed bricklayers working. He asked a few bricklayers: “What are you doing?”.  The first bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer, responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” The third brick layer said: “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.” 

Can you be a powerful leader having not a sharp vision with the end in mind? Would you follow a leader who has not a sharp vision with the end in mind? 

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. 

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Serve. It is the WE not the ME

A good leader needs to understand, it is not him/her which achieves the results, it is the team. A good leader needs to create a framework where his/her team can work together, protecting from distractions that might come from the outside. 

I do not want to dive into leadership models here. I have worked for a couple of companies, which had manifested different leadership methodologies. If you part of the game, you must adapt. Therefore, it is only more important that you find your own leadership style and adapt it to your company models.

Developing your own Leadership Style

Building your own purposeful leadership style is a life-long effort. Various times and situations will force you to revise the one or the other aspect. When you are not sure where to start to build your own leadership style, some observations on leaders’ failures might help.

Learn from the biggest failures of other leaders 

No Vision 

‘Generating growth by 30% YoY’ is not a vision, neither ‘We want to become our customer best supplier’.
If you cannot create a vision on your own, collaborate with others who can.
Instead, it could be ‘We will build an innovate data modeling application, which will give our customers a competitive advantage in avoiding and reducing waste’.

As a good leader you need to be connected to the business, the capabilities, capacities, the industry, and the economics.

As a purposeful leader you also need to consider the greater environment, and the worlds issues as well when creating the vision. The United Nation Organization has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which is a useful source for inspiration. 


“It does not make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do.”  

Steve Jobs

Nothing more to say on micromanagement. 


As a good leader you must ensure that the team can focus on their work. This could be the working environment, the governance as well as the personal situation.  

Especially these days with a lot of people working from home. Do they have the equipment they need? Do they have the information and access the need? Do they take care of their work-life balance? 

A purposeful leader does not forget their personal matters. Do they feel empowered and motivated? What are their aspirations? Do they have to cope with personal issues that affects their work? What do you know personally about them? 

Is there an appropriate governance in place? Are the roles, goals and measurements clearly defined? Is there a clear escalation path when the team members cannot solve the issues by themselves? 

Create a prospering working environment for your team, engage, motivate, collaborate, debate, but always stay in the driver seat. Every team needs a leader. Especially when times get though, the team looks at you to lead them through stormy water. In good times everyone can be a leader, in troubled times your leadership will be proven.

How big is your ego?

At least to my observation micromanagement and carelessness have a lot to do with the ego of the leader. A weak ego often leads with micromanagement, a too big ego shows care and support issues. 

Missing communication and feedback 

This is by far the biggest failure you can make as a leader. The results might be manyfold: 

  • Loss of motivation 
  • Deterioration of the intended results 
  • Team member rivalry 
  • Misuse or disclosure of confidential information 

Beside creating the vision, communication should be the second priority for a leader. How can a vision help to achieve the goals when it is not communicated? 

Create an elevator pitch, draw your vision, how you will get there, what will be achieved, who will benefit. Clear, concise, and consistent. 

Do you give your team regular feedback? Did you ask your team for feedback? Feedback is one of the most underestimated leadership tools. It gives you and your team direction. It creates a sense of care and belonging and the feeling of being valuable – for both sides. 

A purposeful leader should spend at least 50% of the time for communication. Communicate in and out of the team or organization. Speak with the team, talk to internal and external stakeholders, meet with peers. Take each upcoming issue as a chance for a discussion. 

How do you communicate? Via e-mail, messenger, or phone? Do you participate in long email treats to solve problems? I usually prefer to have a short meeting, video conference or call. Different point of views together the lively interaction always led to impressive results. If you think you do not have the time for personal interaction, add up and compare the time you spend in reading and responding to emails. 

Leaders eat at last

I like to recommend a book from Simon Sinek, ‘Leaders eats last’. He represents the theses: 

  • Leaders are the ones who run head first into the unknown 
  • They rush towards the danger 
  • They put their own interests aside to protect us or pull us into the future 
  • Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours 
  • And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs 

There is also a 45 minutes video available on Youtube.

Stay yourself

Finally, I would like to encourage you to stay yourself, by becoming a purposeful leader. It is your personal style that makes the matter. Some might lead as a thought leader, some as a caretaker, some as a problem solver, others in even unusual ways. 

Figure out your leadership style with fit to your strengths and personality, find the right job with the right company and become a purposeful and authentic leader. 

The world needs you! 

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Juergen Sommer

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