Revealing Purpose: Do You Have the Five Attributes of a Purpose-Driven Leader?

 In Collaboration, Innovation, Leadership, Purpose-led Business, Teamwork

By Phil Preston & Carolyn Butler-Madden


Are You Purpose-Driven?

Do you regard yourself as a purpose-driven leader? If so, what qualities differentiate you from leaders without such purposeful drive?

Being purpose-driven not only feels good, it’s a powerful leadership style that underpins improvements in employee engagement, innovation and performance for organisations.

We’re on a mission to better define and bring purpose-driven skills and strategies to life for organisational leaders, and we’ve created a checklist of five (5) key attributes that can be used as a benchmarking tool:


1. Growth Mindset

Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?

Dr Carol Dweck coined the term ‘growth mindset’ to refer to people who don’t rest on their laurels in the belief their talent is innate. Instead, they build new skills, seek out new experiences and have a desire to learn from every situation.

With such a high level of change in the world and the flow on impacts for organisations, it’s hard to imagine how any leader can survive without a growth mindset.

They’re also likely to make the link between attaining a strong sense of purpose and high-performance outcomes.

Do you tick this box? ☑️


2. Being Trusted

Are you territorial or trusted?

One of us once worked for a large financial group at a time when it was considered normal for divisional heads to be fighting it out and positioning to be next in line for the CEO role rather than working together to best serve their customers, employees and shareholders.

Thankfully, those days are coming to an end. Territorial leaders are getting sore heads from hitting the glass ceiling of trust that prevents them from rising in seniority.

Purpose-driven leaders want to grow the pie, not fight over the pieces. They are trusted because they are totally aligned with their organisation’s purpose, they are honest, transparent and have a positive gravitational pull on the people around them.

Do you tick this box? ☑️


3. Empowering Others

Do you hoard your power or put effort into empowering others?

High rates of change have spawned the need for ‘agile’ organisational responses and more decentralised decision-making. Concentrating power in the hands of a few is like decision-making ‘quicksand’.

The modern leader must empower others to fill the space, to apply their strengths and drive the innovative and collaborative solutions that your organisation needs.

Do you tick this box? ☑️


4. Curating Solutions

Do you know all the answers or curate solutions?

Think about what our world will look like in 5-years time? How much confidence do you have in that view?

It’s confronting to think how different our world was 5-years ago. We rarely thought about pandemics, fragile supply chains, generative AI and work from home back then, and yet they’ve had a huge impact on our work and lives.

Purpose-driven leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers; they convene discussions, coach, curate solutions and tap into thought diversity in that process.

Do you tick this box? ☑️


5. Courage to Lead Change

Do you find comfort in business-as-usual methods or have the courage to drive change?

Today, leaders must be able to look beyond ‘ego-systems’ and incorporate broader stakeholder views into their perspectives and practices.

In the past, many companies have narrowly focused on production systems and supply chains, regarding broader sets of stakeholders as risks to manage rather than sources of innovation, collaboration and value-add.

For example, companies with non-profit sector partnerships responded and adapted well in the pandemic. Why? They were already familiar working with non-traditional partners and had therefore developed this capability ahead of time.

Purpose-driven leaders are able to break free of traditional, limiting approaches and have the courage to do things differently.

They inspire stakeholders to embrace the opportunities that change offers and have the courage to stare down and challenge those who would put the brakes on due to narrow self-interest.

Do you tick this box? ☑️


Case Study

On his first day as CEO of Unilever in 2009, Paul Polman publicly announced that Unilever would now take a long-term value creation approach to their business.

Subsequently, they would no longer issue quarterly reports and earnings guidance.

He went a step further, telling investors that they should invest elsewhere if they didn’t “buy into this long-term value creation model which is equitable, which is shared, which is sustainable”.

His approach was validated in 2017 when Kraft Heinz – a company renowned for stripping costs and leveraging up balance sheets – attempted a takeover.

The long-term focused shareholder base backed Unilever’s approach and rejected the takeover.

Two years later, Kraft Heinz wrote down US$15 billion of assets and faced SEC probes into its accounting practices. It also completely missed the trend to healthier foods and had severely underinvested in R&D and sustainability.

We can’t all be a Paul Polman, but we can show up with more courage to challenge the elements of business-as-usual that we know are limiting the potential of our people and organisations to flourish.


Your Score?

How do you rate? How do your fellow leaders rate? Congratulations if you ticked four or five of these boxes! ✅

These traits can be trained and developed if there are shortfalls, and there’s abundant evidence of purpose-driven leaders and work cultures achieving consistently high levels of outperformance in the market.

You may want to use this checklist in your leadership development activities and forums.

This is the first in a series of 3 articles, please make contact via the details further below if you’d like to be notified of the next two, with the themes of Decoding Success and Forging the Path.


About the Authors


Phil Preston is the founder of WhyThisNow, helping leaders, teams and organisations develop purpose-driven strategies for high-performance outcomes. You can make contact with him via

Carolyn Butler-Madden is the Chief Purpose Activist of her B Corp Certified Consultancy, The Cause Effect. She believes in a world where business is a force for good and brands drive profit through purpose. You can make contact with her via

Phil and Carolyn are speakers and facilitators in their own right, and team up to deliver keynotes, workshops and leadership development sessions.

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