Leaders' values invariably impact the lives of their employees. In this video, Wilson Wong explains why purposeful leadership is so important, looks at the impact it has on an organisation’s ethical climate, and outlines what HR professionals can do to enable purposeful leadership in their organisations.
Play Video
Wilson Wong
CIPD: Why is purposeful leadership important?       

Wilson Wong: The notion of purposeful leadership is really quite important because when we talk about leaders leading your organisation, their values come into play and how those values are played out in the decisions and the choices they make for the organisations.  It is important now for us to address it given the final crisis, given the organisational news that we see in terms of Sports Direct and so on.  What is important is where those values are played out because these impact the lives of every single one of their workers in their business.

CIPD: What impact does purposeful leadership have on an organisation’s ethical climate?

Wilson Wong: So we know the organisations’ climate is very clearly defined by the way that the leader articulates and ‘walks the talk’.  Being able to ‘walk the talk’ means that the leaders are also able to express some of those values which they hold dear.  There is an assumption in the research that the leaders come with a clear notion of what is right and what is wrong, of course.   The question in the research is whether or not they are able to exercise that rightness or wrongness in a confident authentic way.

CIPD: What makes purposeful leaders stand out?   

Wilson Wong: I mean there is a perennial argument about the binary between business savvy and ethical leadership and I would say that is neither one nor the other.   It’s a question of your time horizon.  If you are looking for short-term benefit over long-term success then yes, I would argue that being far more exploitative of the situation works in the short-term but in the longer term, if you want your workforce to come with you, to understand that you are here for far more than the bottom line and to genuinely engage with your customers and communities, that you are a brand that cares about more than just the number of things you sell, then the ethics comes in to play.  We have seen so many examples of where society takes to task organisations with that short-term view.

CIPD: What can HR professionals do to enable purposeful leadership within their organisations?   
Wilson Wong: For organisations, certainly for HR, there is an ask from the research to be able to understand where their leadership is on that journey of maturity in terms of articulating their own moral compass and HR has a very important role in trying to align the climate so that the moral compass is part and parcel of the leadership’s role in an organisation.

CIPD: How can the CIPD champion purposeful leadership?   

Wilson Wong: Well for CIPD this is putting rubber to the road when we talk about championing better working lives, what we mean is providing the evidence that that actually can be done practically.  So in this research we look at how organisations have put this into practice, both the learning as well as some of the bumps that they have encountered.  It’s not a whitewashed case study list.  These case studies talk about real organisations with real dilemmas and leaders who have to grapple with these issues.  So I think CIPD sees its role very much in the advocate role but advocate with evidence.