In my last article, I wrote about French Marshal Napoleon Bonaparte, who even today can be regarded as a remarkable example of strategic leadership. His methods of preparing for battle, his ability to foresee many possible and unprecedented situations, and his awareness of and attention to detail—all are extremely rare leadership traits indeed.
Leadership could be likened to a puzzle consisting of numerous unique pieces. It is only the completed puzzle—the sum of all the pieces—that provides the whole picture. Napoleon’s leadership style is one such picture.
Today I want to provide yet another piece of the leadership puzzle, without which leadership could not function. Because I enjoy talking in pictures, I will provide an extraordinary example at the end of this article.
Everybody is looking for a purpose, be it in private life or in their career—but mostly for all of their beings. It is part of human nature to look for something we can believe in, that provides a higher purpose for all of our existence and endeavors. Leaders often provide a purpose for others to follow, that inspires followers to action
As an example, let’s go back in history to the ancient Egyptians. Almost all of their life on Earth was geared to the afterlife—what they considered the “real” life that came after they had passed on. This purpose was invented by the Egyptian rulers, the Pharaohs, who needed a legitimate reason for their ruling and a reason people should follow them. It was said that if someone led a decent and fruitful life, serving the community and doing good deeds, they would then be rewarded in the afterlife with the gift of not suffering from pain, hunger or unsatisfied needs.
This higher purpose impacted everything they did. And it was an extremely strong motivation to “live by the rules” and serve the Pharaoh and ruling class.
Today, many thousands of years later, leaders still must provide inspiration and motivation, “reasons why.” People need a reason to follow someone and provide their best efforts.
As most people spend two-thirds of their days working, it is important, if not crucial, that we find a purpose in what we are doing and a “why” that provides motivation, inspiration and drive.
There are many ways a purpose can be provided by a good leader, so as to motivate employees eager to contribute to—and be part of—the company’s success.
A very impactful way to create a sense of meaning is to put employees in touch with end users. Giving employees the opportunity to communicate and get direct feedback allows them to develop meaning and purpose in meeting customer needs.
This is exactly what salespeople do every day. In dealing with customers, they create a win and success on every side: with the customer, who is buying a product or service that makes their life easier and more efficient; the salesperson, who creates success by getting one step closer to their goal; and the company’s overall success by contributing to a higher outcome.
Great leaders know that people are inherently motivated when they understand the “why”: why they are doing something, the purpose of their work and actions.
According to a study, the best leaders are those who create an environment and provide tools to make sure their employees are gaining that deeper connection. It could be through regular personal conversations, training, feedback and/or a mentoring program.
It is down to the leader to provide the right directions and tools to create inspiration, motivation and the “higher meaning” for their team members.
But before you can provide a higher purpose, you must explore and understand the environment, the people you are working with and their personalities. This can only happen through communication and flexibility on both sides.
Only through good and meaningful communication—when you have built a relationship with the people you are working with—can the transfer of motivation take place.
Being a good and motivating leader means constantly being open and prepared. It means being flexible to new situations. not trying to create a “one-size-fits-all” solution for all employees. Good leadership is a work in progress and sometimes needs a lot of adaptation, while being based on a fundamental and sustainable set of tools.
It is crucial for the communication to be transparent, clear, and transfer the optimism and the vision the leader is providing.
Transfer of Belief
In essence, leadership is a transfer of belief—to motivate and inspire your team members so they succeed. This means like a good leader you are not only leading and managing people, but also their beliefs.
Being a Role Model
A good leader leads through example! This example defines how to grow, how to provide the best, how to work hard and not give up, how to obtain endurance and resilience, and how to be successful. All great business leaders who have dedicated teams are hardworking, incredibly authentic, dedicated, and have a greater vision.
Purpose and Trust
Now let’s close the circle.
Through their vision, a leader can deliver purpose-driven goals, create real motivation, and the desire to succeed and make a difference. By being authentic, and delivering the higher purpose and the “why”, through communication, the leader is building employee trust over time. Employees know they can succeed through giving their best, and trust in the vision, goals, and success of the company.
The ancient Egyptians trusted their Pharaoh to lead them, with rules and directions, to a meaningful and fruitful life—not only on Earth but in the afterlife. The Pharaoh’s vision in the higher purpose of the afterlife and his actions created trust in the people who were following them. This can also be seen through the fact that the pyramids were not built by slaves, but by ordinary people who dedicated their labor and work to this giant vision in stone.
The Shoe that Grows and Because of International
I would like to present you a very outstanding and unique example of how people can be guided to make the best of themselves, to succeed and to determine their own destinies and how a vision can come true, inspire others and give purpose to a lot of people:
The Shoe That Grows and Because International was founded by Kenton Lee, who traveled in 2007 to Nairobi, Kenya where he lived and worked in a small orphanage. One day he was walking down a dusty road with the children and noticed a little girl walking next to him. As he looked down at her feet, he was shocked to see how small her shoes were. She had had to cut open the front to let her toes stick out. Kenton thought “What if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand its size?” After returning to the United States, he pitched an early concept to several shoe companies. Even though none of them were interested, Kenton still continued to believe in his vision. He assembled a small team and together they started to develop prototypes. Finally, after five years of hard work, his idea had become reality: “The Shoe that Grows” was born.
With the help of donors and partners, they have now distributed over 180,000 pairs of these shoes worldwide. Their goal is to produce the product in the areas where they are being used most. Local production also benefits job creation, reduces carbon footprint and lowers shipping costs. They are currently developing production in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Haiti.
Their second product is Bednet Buddy—a collapsible sleeping net to protect children 5 years old and younger from malaria.
This is just how impactful a great vision can be. Please visit their website and have a look.
“I am driven by the desire to put people in a place to succeed. Not to necessarily do everything for them, or solve every problem in their life, but just to do what I can to put them in a better position to succeed, then cheer them on as they work hard and strive to be the best they can be.”