John is a senior vice-president who really strives to lead as effectively as he can. However, he and his team are once again facing flat revenue growth, slightly declined engagement scores and productivity, and they're having retention issues. Stress levels are high and he hasn't been getting the sleep that he should. He's tried everything and he doesn't know what else to do.
One thing he hasn't considered is leading with greater meaning and purpose. He hasn't paused to reflect on his own meaning and purpose and how that connects to his team and organization. He doesn't have a set of personal core values, a life mission, or a leadership philosophy that he practices, leads, and lives by. No one's taught him how to do that.
He's not alone.
Few leaders and organizations are treating leading with meaning and purpose as a business priority, much less as a business imperative. This is unfortunate because neglecting meaning and purpose results in lower engagement, productivity, innovation, revenue and financials, wellbeing, and increased or continued retention problems.
Conversely, for those companies listed in the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2022 by Great Place to Work, purpose is prioritized and they outperform those who do not on all of those metrics.
And, Harvard Business School found that companies whose employees feel a sense of purpose at work and believe their leaders set clear direction and expectation, outperform the stock market by 6.9% and even greater returns when middle managers and individual contributors experience purpose and clarity.
Add to these findings that hundreds of studies have demonstrated solid links between greater meaning in life and greater wellbeing (both psychologically and physically).
For example, Diener and Seligman reported in 2004, "people high in wellbeing function more effectively than people low in well-being. They are likely to have more successful relationships, to be more productive at work, to have higher incomes, and to have better physical and mental health."
With so many positive outcomes associated with it, it's important for leaders today to make greater meaning and purpose a business and personal imperative.
But first, we must understand what it is and what drives it.
What is meaning in life?
In last week's blog, The Science of Meaning in Life, we discovered that meaning and purpose at work falls under the umbrella term meaning in life and that it consists of three components:
Dr. Isaac Prilleltensky said in a recent Psychology Today article that "Mattering consists of feeling valued, by self and others; and adding value, to self and others. The more you associate with people who make you feel valued, and who add value to your life, the happier and healthier you’ll be. "
What drives meaning in life?
In a recent review of the literature, Researchers Laura King from the University of Missouri and Joshua Hicks from Texas A&M University, report findings on the drivers of or pathways to greater meaning and purpose.
Among the drivers are positive affect or feelings of happiness and fun, age (yes the link becomes stronger as we age), social connections, religion and worldviews, and a sense of our own mortality. And while each of these deserve greater scrutiny (watch this space), it's the last two drivers that are most compelling for leaders who want to lead with greater meaning and purpose.
They are what the researchers termed the self and mental time travel.
When the researchers elaborated on what they meant by the self, I couldn't help but think of the integration of increased self-awareness and a clear, coherent life story into a life mission statement and/or a leadership philosophy statement (including our core values).
There is abundant evidence that demonstrates that leading by a leadership philosophy positively impacts all types of business metrics, most notably leadership effectiveness.
For example, Kouzes and Posner report in The Leadership Challenge on a study they did that compared leaders who had high clarity with those who had low clarity of their leadership philosophy.
Those who rated themselves among the top 20% of leadership philosophy clarity scored 110% higher on pride in their organization, commitment to their organization’s success, their willingness to work hard, and their overall effectiveness than those who are not clear about their leadership philosophy.
Unfortunately, most organizations do not have a clear, step-by-step guide or process to teach leaders how to develop a leadership philosophy or how to lead with greater meaning & purpose—in other words, how to use it in their leadership.
A new course coming out next month, does just that. Leading With Meaning & Purpose is an empirically-driven, engaging, self-directed course. You will learn why leading with meaning and purpose is so important for leaders today and walk through a proven step-by-step process for developing your very own, personal leadership philosophy. You will also discover best-practices, tools, and strategies to lead and live by your leadership philosophy.
Mental time travel
Part of the process of developing a leadership philosophy and then living and leading with greater meaning and purpose requires that one pauses, unplugs, and contemplates their past, present, and future selves.
Nostalgic memories enhance and help us maintain meaning in our lives and lessons-learned from disappointments, failures, and even tragedies add to our life-understanding and coherence. And, imagining our future self and linking it to our past creates greater coherence and provides motivation to show up with greater authenticity and purpose.
The researchers found "that detailed and vivid mental simulations were more likely to lead to enhanced meaning in life compared to less detailed thoughts."
The Leading With Meaning & Purpose course will walk you through a step-by-step process that guides you through developing your own leadership philosophy and provides you with the strategies and tools to lead and live with greater meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose starts with you.
Pre-enrollment discounts for early birds will be available soon.
Amire, R.(2022, May 10). Purpose at work predicts if employees will stay or quit their jobs. Great Place to Work Institute.
Amire, R.(2022, July 18). The best workplaces for millennials offer meaning and purpose. Fortune Media.
Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Beyond money. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5 (1), 1-31. Washington, DC: Sage Publications.
King, L.A. & Hicks, J.A. (2021). The meaning in life. Annual Review of Psychology, 72, (561-584).
Psychology Today Contributors. (2023, March 7). 21 Rules to live by. Psychology Today.
Steger, M.F. (2017). Meaning in life and wellbeing. In M. Slade (Ed.), Wellbeing, Recovery and Mental Health (pp. 75-85). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Have an amazing journey today!
Alan Mikolaj is a coach and leadership development consultant with 15+ years of experience. He is passionate about helping leaders transform their leadership, their teams, and their organizations. Impactful, professional approach driven by a passion for meaning and purpose, a growth mindset, and a commitment to excellence and service in order to drive change and results.
Alan maintains the ethics and standards of behavior established by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), including the standards regarding confidentiality. You can learn more about them on the ICF website.
Impactful change starts with a conversation!
Schedule your free, one-hour session by clicking here: Discovery Conversation with Alan
Or call or email me: Contact Page
Alan Mikolaj is a a professional, experienced, positive, and passionate speaker, leadership and organizational development consultant, change agent, author, and coach. He holds his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Sam Houston State University. He is a certified graduate coach from Coaching Out of the Box and holds his ACC and membership with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
Free Discovery Conversation!
Impactful change starts with a conversation! Schedule your free, one-hour session by clicking here: Discovery Conversation with Alan
Or call or email: Contact Page
In his third book, A Travel Guide to Leadership, Alan offers you simple, fundamental, and powerful lessons that have the power to transform you, your relationships, and your career.