Purpose-Driven Leadership: Part One

The Three Phases of Purpose-Driven Leadership

Purpose-driven leaders tap into the deep well of intrinsic motivation inside themselves and those around them. They also inspire their teams to achieve extraordinary results. We have found that employers need to provide a comprehensive journey to develop a pipeline of purpose-driven leaders.

This journey begins with cultivating the ground on which purpose is fertile. Not every employee is equally ready to  embrace purpose. Many have fears or psychological barriers that need to be overcome to go from desire to self awareness to holding a belief that work can be deeply meaningful. 

To begin, employers should work with employees to build self awareness about what drives purpose for them in their current work. They should help them realise they don't have to be in a job like “social worker” to find work meaningful and that purpose comes from little daily moments. Having purpose in our careers requires acknowledging and then investing in the growth of these moments instead of taking them for granted.

Before becoming Purpose-driven leaders, employees need to actively look for opportunities to boost the relationships, impact and growth discussions around them. They need to continuously assess the purpose in their work and hack their approach to it to optimise for meaning.

This refocusing leads to a fundamental shift in mindset where purpose, not money and status, become their dominant orientation to their job. Once that shift has become ingrained in the way they think about their work, these employees out score their colleagues in every measure from leadership competencies to performance.

The result is that these purpose-oriented employees emerge as leaders. They are more comfortable standing out with strong convictions and values. They begin to rally and inspire teams through shared bold goals. Finally they begin to transform organisations and markets with visions that change our perspective on what is possible.

Purpose is the reason we work beyond financial rewards and recognition.
— Aaron Hurst, Founder & CEO, Imperative

The 10 Attributes of a Purpose-Driven Leader

  1. Has a backbone and stands up for their values
  2. Is driven to make an impact - not just for money and status
  3. Defines business outcomes through impact, not just economics
  4. Recruits more intrinsically-motivated talent for their teams
  5. Creates an environment of psychological safety for their team
  6. Sets bold shared visions that inspire their teams
  7. Aligns individual, team and organisational purpose
  8. Owns their biases and creates an environment for a diversity of purpose drivers
  9. Serves as a powerful ambassador and evangelist for their organisation
  10. Supports colleagues in actively improving their work to derive meaning 

To develop a purpose leadership program, we recommend crafting the design based on a three phase journey: Discovery, Activation and Leadership. In this series we'll share the key milestones along the way, measures of development for each participant and a checklist of activities that we have found create breakthrough results.

Purpose Driven Leadership Flow 2.png

In part two of this series we'll explore Phase I: Discovery in detail. Check back soon or register below and we'll let you know when the next post is published. 


Aaron Hurst is a globally recognised social entrepreneur who works to create communities that are empowered to realise their potential. He is the CEO of Imperative, a B Corp advocating for Purpose-Oriented Workers and supporting the organisations that embrace them.

Widely known for his thought leadership, he is the author of The Purpose Economy (2014) and a regular advisor and thought partner for many global brands. He has written for or been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV and was named a LinkedIn Influencer. He is the author of Fast Company's Purposeful CEO profile series.

Image Credit: Darkest Hour. Perfect World Pictures. 2017