An effective leadership is driven by purpose
Every employee in an organisation should be aware of: Where are we heading? Why are we going there? What is in it for me?
The late Jack Welch was one of the most prominent CEOs in the world. He was a chemical engineer and a writer as well. However, what many people don’t know is that in his early days, he worked as a golf caddie, shoe salesman, and drill press operator.
In 1960, when young Welch joined General Electric as a junior engineer at a modest salary, he was quickly fed up with the work bureaucracy, and almost quit after failing to secure the hoped-for promotion.
Later on, when Welch became CEO of General Electric in 1981, he wanted to apply his own understanding of successful work in large organisations, which he developed through the various phases of his life. He seemed to have found the most fitting description of a perfect leader, when he said that a true leader is one who possesses the meaning or purpose, and succeeds in making the whole organisation revolve around that meaning or that purpose.
In his interviews during his later years, Welch often repeated that a successful leader is essentially a “Chief Meaning Officer”, describing meaning as the most important component of all the rules, regulations, and methods.
This type of leadership revolves around four questions that every employee in the organisation should be aware of: Where are we heading? Why are we going there? How will we get there? What is in it for me?
The essence of leadership of meaning is based on employees’ understanding of the organisation’s vision, mission, and values, in addition to their belief that dedication in implementing the organisation’s goals will bring them benefits. Here, benefit does not necessarily mean material benefit, but other gains that are no less important than money, such as, patriotism, community service, self-realisation, and others.
Why are we talking about Welch and the leadership of ‘meaning’?
A while ago, a manager in one of the institutions told me that in a general employees meeting, he asked employees to raise their hands who had memorised the vision of the institution. Only a few employees did, while the rest exchanged looks in confusion and astonishment.
How can an organisation achieve its vision when its employees do not know it? The answer to this question is meaning and a purpose-centred leadership.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government and Director General, TRA
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