Most Bosses Don’t Know What Purpose Is

What are the most important leadership skills? According to a study, the ability to inspire and motivate others is most important at all levels.

most important leadership skills

Enthusiasm is a powerful trigger to create forward progress, but a recent study points out that most bosses kill meaning; which means they don’t inspire. There’s a good reason why:

The truth is most leaders impede progress, they don’t create the conditions necessary to enable paths forwards; it’s more blocking than anything. This is not how the leaders that enable people to create the future act.

How do the leaders of the future act like?

One key trait is they’re purposeful, but not because the new generation of workers require it; but because they’re motivated by a higher calling; they also understand that it’s necessary to attract and bring out the best in everyone.

But as a recent article points out, mots bosses have no idea what purpose means.

Though purpose is often attributed to social organizations, for-profit organization’s should also have an underlying reason for existing beyond simply making a profit; purpose matters.

Purpose isn’t a silver bullet

A more important point, one that isn’t widely discussed, is that merely having a purpose won’t solve your engagement, hiring and retaining challenges; it isn’t enough. You see, everyone has different motivations for showing up for work to do their best; and those motivations don’t necessarily align with the organization’s purpose:

We need to be aware of the full spectrum of needs of our employees — and our diverse reasons for showing up to work. According to Kevin, trust and autonomy are the more important drivers for engaging and retaining your people than purpose. Kevin shares a personal story of how his reason for staying at the progressive insurance company Hixcock was because they trusted him and gave him the autonomy to do his work. While think trust and autonomy are important, I don’t think they should be our starting place.

I think you have to start with needs. What really matters to your people?

It isn’t one or the other, it’s both.

It’s worth pointing out that we are sending a bad message when we talk about having a purpose and providing motivation for others to do their best in the workplace. Ask yourself: do you want to work with people who are not self-motivated themselves?

Groups of people who are not self-motivated will not innovate.


shared purpose


Of course, the business of innovation is an unknown path with peaks and valleys, situations where people will need a dose of inspiration to keep at it. Cultural problems arise when one overcomes the other and breaks the balance; it’s when people start disengaging and / or leave.

If you want to avoid cultural challenges, don’t assume people have the same motivations as your organization. Take the time to find out what they care about, why do they get up in the morning and show up at work to do their best; find the common ground where there is a shared purpose.

Bottom line: The most important leadership skill is getting people to care, and act, on their purpose; while also contributing to the shared purpose of the organization.