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Purposeful Behaviour

In classrooms and in various work environments, I have observed that when I discuss the learning required to develop oneself as a leader, most people gauge their development by comparing themselves to others, including inspirational people they know, their role models (i.e., “heroes”), and their peers. And that comparison is most often made in terms of others' behaviour. Here, we can deine behaviour as the instrument that delivers an individual's skills and character attributes. Behaviour is the outward manifestation of a person's interpersonal skills and character attributes (discussed previously) as experienced by the observer. Behaviour is typically summarized with simple, clear statements like these:

“He's very skilled and smart, but he treats people badly.” “We aren't friends, but I respect his ability.”

“He's a phony who will do anything to impress his boss.” “I've learned a lot from him – he's a great coach.”

“I wish I could lead others like him – he's a role model.”

Behaviour is the inal element in the triad of capabilities that aspiring leaders must learn in order to prepare themselves for role model leadership. A leader's behaviour is a function of motivation and style.


To learn the required skills and character attributes described in earlier sections of this book requires considerable self-motivation and will. This wilfulness to behave as a role model leader expresses itself as what I
call purposeful behaviour. Behaving in a reactive or ego-driven way is not purposeful.

People can be inspired and inluenced by others to do things and to do them in certain ways, but they must motivate themselves to behave in certain ways. For example, parents and perhaps other role models can inluence or inspire a young person to go to university and study engineering, but that young person must motivate herself to study hard and become a graduate engineer. In the same way, people must motivate themselves to exert the mental energy to learn the skills and character attributes required to become competent leaders capable of inluencing others.

Reactive behaviour occurs when aspiring leaders respond to external stimuli that are not totally aligned with their own values. Some examples: special interest groups or particular individuals may demand that you as a leader-engineer or your organization act in a certain manner; you may be tempted by the allure of an easier but unethical means for achieving your organization's environmental remediation goals. Leaders who take the reactive route – even if it is just sometimes – are demonstrating to their followers that they are not developing themselves as role models. And importantly, those followers will often be confused about their leader's intentions because they will have learned to expect that external stimuli will come along and change their leader's expressed intentions again and again.

Ego-driven behaviour occurs when aspiring leaders focus on selfsatisfaction. These leaders do things that meet their own needs rather than the needs of others. An example of this is a leader-engineer who takes credit for the ideas and work of others and uses his success to enhance his own reputation. Another example would be an aspiring leader who takes the organization in a direction that does not reach for transformational goals and who is satisied with easier, safer change even while others in the organization are developing themselves and their teams by reaching for goals that will grow the organization and beneit others, even though risking failure. Yet another example is a project leader who pushes for her own approach to solve a problem and rejects others' approaches without discussion or investigation. These are examples of poor leaders. Unfortunately, all of us have observed talented and skilful people who have chosen to beneit themselves by behaving in ego-satisfying ways. People who demonstrate this behaviour can severely damage the careers and even the lives of others. The worldwide mortgage meltdown of 2008 is an outstanding example of this – the world's economy is still recovering, and only slowly, from the ego-driven greed of others. The best-known proponent of the philosophy of service is Robert Greenleaf, author of the 1970 essay The Servant as Leader.1 This essay is often quoted, although his ideas were not new even in 1970. Indeed, the philosophy of service by leaders goes back to very ancient civilizations and religions. Even so, Greenleaf provided a very valuable teaching just prior to the 1980s and the rise of democratic models of leadership. I do not fully accept all aspects of Greenleaf's model of service, largely because of my perception that it distances the leader from being “in the work” of the organization, but that is not so important in the context of this discussion.

The developmental leadership model presented in this book calls for us to take action to do work to improve other people's lives by working to make things better. It calls for individuals to exert mental energy to develop themselves throughout their lives. Developmental role model leaders strive to nourish their enterprises; they purposefully – wilfully – do the right things for themselves and for their stakeholders.

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