Authentic Leadership: Pursuing Purpose with Passion

In this post I am going to let George and Sims have the first word!

Most people struggle to understand the purpose of their leadership. In order to find their purpose, authentic leaders must first understand themselves and their passions. In turn, their passions show the way to the purpose of their leadership. Without a real sense of purpose, leaders are at the mercy of their egos and narcissistic vulnerabilities.

(True North, George and Sims)

In other words, authentic leaders understand what they are passionate about, allow those passions to shape their purpose and allow that purpose to shape their leadership calling. It strikes me that leaders, including me, are at their most authentic when their assignment is aligned directly to their purpose, passion and calling. You could re-run this sentence and replace the word authentic with the words fulfilled or effective. All three sentences have their own meaning and carry their own weight but they are linked – in other words authenticity is as fulfilling as it is effective.

If all of this is true then fundamental to a leader’s authenticity is the extent to which they are able to fully and honestly answer the following questions:

• What am I genuinely passionate about?

• How does this passion find expression in my purpose?

• How does this purpose find expression in my leadership calling?

• To what extent does my current leadership assignment align with my passion, purpose and calling?

• If necessary what do I need to do to improve that alignment? (The answer might be change your assignment!)

In the spirit of authenticity I should say these are all questions I am asking myself right now.

In closing out this article I want to expand on a couple of aspects of the importance of purpose and the significance of passion in the context of leadership.

George and Sims suggest that lack of purpose in leaders leaves them exposed to ego and what they call “narcissistic vulnerabilities”. This phenomena has played out graphically over the last 100 years in the political arena which has been increasingly characterised by purposeless professionals - self-serving leaders who are far more concerned with “I” than “we” (the subject of my next post). Sadly, businesses have also had their share of such leaders however I am encouraged that there is a new generation of leaders emerging. Leaders who embody servanthood and authenticity. Interestingly this generation of leaders are increasingly recognising the world changing contribution they can make in raising up and equipping young men and women.

In life and leadership it is vital we follow our compass not our clock. We can often find ourselves coming under the pressure of time and rushed into making faster progress in some direction, in any direction, into becoming someone, in fact anyone! To do this demands we change course because seemingly the progress towards our “True North” is painfully slow, even painful and slow! It’s at this point authentic leaders convert their passion for their purpose into a determination for their destination. Remaining true to the compass of who they are, and aligned to the compass of their life’s purpose and passion, authentic leaders refuse to compromise for or be compromised by the clock.

In many ways this is a matter of integrity not just authenticity, perhaps making it what I described in a related post as authentic integrity. Authentic integrity means I am not going to allow the clock to dictate who I am or what’s important to me. If or when I am forced into having to make a choice between my compass and the clock I won’t hide that conflict from you or the fact that I am choosing my "True North" and why.

Mark Lawrence is a leadership and culture consultant