2020-08-31 HR Examiner article Dr Todd Dewett Chasing Purpose stock photo img cc0 by linus sandvide 5DIFvVwe6wk unsplash crop 544x636px.jpg

“Purpose is about things beyond you – both things to be achieved and people to be developed. However, we have to recognize that life can be hard, right?  We can’t always be our best selves.”
- Dr. Todd Dewett


We all aspire to be our best selves, to lead with purpose. That refers to something bigger than the team, bigger than a mere goal.  It’s that long-term higher calling – the vision you’re chasing. Leading with purpose might mean different things to different people, but to me it really means three things.


First, it means that you lead with strong values and beliefs. In many ways, these are ideas that drive us past goals towards bigger dreams. Great leaders work to align everyone with these ideas and make the sacrifices necessary to keep us aligned and on track.


Next, to lead with purpose implies passion. Passion is the energy you derive from trying to live your values and beliefs.  It shows up in your thoughts and your outward positivity and drive. It’s the unique and hard to define quality you possess that infects others and inspires them to join you on the journey.



Dr. Todd Dewett | Founding member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Finally, it’s about embracing a service mentality. Leading effectively really is about them, not you. You’ll spend a great deal of time improving your skills, but ultimately the impact you make is defined not by personal accolades, but by the number of new leaders you’ve helped create. Remember, purpose is about things beyond you – both things to be achieved and people to be developed.


However, we have to recognize that life can be hard, right? We can’t always be our best selves. Even if that ideal is hard to maintain full-time, you still owe it to the team to bring your best game. So, what’s acceptable?


If you can’t lead with purpose, you can at least be fun and helpful. You create fun by laughing, making fun of yourself, telling a story, or perhaps by sharing appropriate humor. It’s not hard to be helpful either:  lend a hand, give feedback, or share a resource.  When you combined a bit of both, you are clearly supporting a healthy and productive workplace.


But life is hard… If you can’t be fun and helpful, the very least you can do is be positive. This is a minimum requirement for effective leadership. When you show positivity, you are not a threat to others.  You don’t damage their attitudes or productivity. In fact, it’s likely you will add to their capacity. When you smile, offer positive comments, or otherwise show kindness, you’re doing something useful.


I do admit that sometimes it’s hard to be positive.  Occasionally, it’s okay to show more difficult emotions. It’s part of being authentic and embracing and growing emotional intelligence. However, there is a cap on how often you can move into territory that is not positive. Give or take, if you dwell there more than ten percent of the time – your positive efforts will not have the expected impact. Negativity is human, but manage it proactively and don’t allow it in excess at work.


Purpose is the goal. It’s a guiding light that keeps you focused. As life wears on you, at least try to be fun and helpful to others.  At a minimum, be positive! If you can’t adopt this approach most of the time, you really should rethink whether or not you should be in a leadership role. People deserve more, and so do you. Good news – the more you specifically focus on being the guiding light, the more often you’ll find the strength to lead with purpose.


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