By Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Head of Research and Thought Leadership at the CIPD
Another week, another ethical issue in the spotlight – a group of AI experts are questioning whether collaboration between a South Korean research university and a weaponry firm to develop autonomous arms is fit “to improve and not harm human lives”. Many organisations – from BP to Volkswagen – have faced such challenges in recent years as societies apply increasing scrutiny to the purpose of business, and not just the economic value it might deliver. This scrutiny is, of course, only amplified when well-being and continuity of whole nations is at risk.
In light of the public debate on organisational purpose, businesses are increasingly interested in establishing and communicating an external commitment to a set of high-level values, mirrored by healthy ethical cultures inside workplaces. Many have realised that leaders are key to facilitating a move towards such values and cultures, but so far research has not identified the kind of purposeful leaders that could take these organisations into more ethical futures.
CIPD research describes purposeful leaders
In 2017 CIPD published research that aimed to define what it means to be a purposeful leader, and the impact that these individuals have on teams, performance, and workplace culture. Five organisations participated in the study: a large retailer, a care charity, a central government department, a police force, and a building materials and construction solutions firm. We conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups in these organisations, as well as surveying a representative sample of the UK working population to establish the prevalence and impact of purposeful leadership.
Our main finding is that purposeful leadership – combining a clear vision, a strong moral compass and an expressed commitment to stakeholders – can contribute to a range of positive organisational outcomes. This includes job satisfaction, meaningfulness of work, going ‘beyond the call of duty’ for the organisation, and employees’ intention to quit, a culture of mutual support, a sense of being treated fairly among staff, and even sales outcomes in commercial settings.
In some organisations, that already have a strong sense of values, purposeful leadership serves to maintain existing ethical cultures. While in other environments, where organisations are unclear on what they stand for or are going through a process of change to re-define their purpose, this kind of leadership can become a much more important factor in enabling employee engagement.
Find out what purposeful leaders can do for your organisation and how to support them
Whether you are a leader or a professional supporting organisational leaders to set and deliver on their purpose, the findings of this research will help you with specific practices that help leaders to walk the walk on their commitment to a purpose.
Ksenia will be exploring this topic as part of our International Webinar Series on 18th April 2018. Explore the research on Purposeful Leadership and more CIPD resources on the Leadership topic page in our Knowledge Hub at CIPD.AE CIPD.IE or CIPD.Asia
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