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How purpose leadership can help shape the future

What does it mean to develop leadership in such a way that it no longer chases short-term goals and is controlled externally, but instead has a deeper meaning?  In other words, how can you develop purposeful leadership and start shaping the future?

Julia von Winterfeldt, SOULWORX

These were the questions I asked Julia von Winterfeldt. Julia is the founder and managing director of SOULWORX, a purpose & strategy collective for executives, teams and entire organizations. Julia’s and SOULWORX’s mission is to awaken executives to find and live their authentic selves with the higher aim of developing the world of work in order to work better for people and companies as a whole.

Thomas:  What is purposeful leadership?

Julia:    Purposeful leadership for me is the ability to follow what your heart’s desire is.  Therefore it is leading something and attracting followers around something that is of meaning or has a meaningful direction. So you’re so infused by what you believe is necessary to be put into this world.  You lead the way.  And you may inspire others to partake in this meaningful direction,too.

Thomas: Okay, so let’s say I’m leading a team or a business unit and I have been working for this company for twenty years and everything so far worked out fine.  Does this mean I have been practicing purposeful leadership?

Julia:    Well I would add the notion of what is the meaningful direction in that? So what are you actually leading towards? What is the reason that you’re taking yourself and others towards this? So, if you just say I have been leading a team and I have done that in a great way, that wouldn’t be sufficient for me. I’d like to then understand what it is that you and your team are contributing to? What’s their reason for them to believe as a team that they want to join and go towards what?

Thomas: If a leader has always been results-driven and has actually delivered on his promises, in other words he has been very successful, helped generate huge EBITs, would you say that this traditional leadership model is outdated?  If so, what has changed or what hasn’t changed?

Julia:    Yes.  See, EBIT is not the reason to do something.  It’s the result of doing something. What has changed I think is that we’re recognizing different dynamics happening, whether there’s digitalization, whether it’s interconnectivity, globalization, whether there’s climate change that we need to have a stronger stand for, how we can participate in serving or solving these global dynamics. What has changed in my view is that leadership is or needs to become still more synchronized with a larger dynamics than just what is happening within their organization beyond EBIT or financial results.

Thomas: Let’s say I’m interested in purposeful leadership even though I am sowmehat skeptical, but still want to try it. Where do I start?

Julia:    With yourself. I would first want to understand what are you skeptical about? Do you think purposeful leadership is a message? No.  Is purposeful leadership a thing to believe in? Yes.  So, if you are skeptical because you do not know what it is then the first question that you could deal with is to understand why you’re in this role that you have today, what is driving you in this role? 
For example, you might say, “I’ve been in the automotive business now for twenty years, so that’s what I’m good at.” Okay, that’s great. Now let’s go one step further:  why did you stay there for twenty years? “Because I know the industry quite well.”  The next question could be, why you are staying in this industry for so long.  You might explain that this is so because you are good at it or because you like the people or you have now reached a position where you could have more power. Then I could pick up the point you made of having more power.  A question could be, what’s the impact that you are actually having with this power? What do you think your able to do in this place or in your position of power?  If the answer is, “well, we’re making more money”, or, “I’m helpng the company become bigger, larger, more influential”, I would challenge you and ask which stakeholder you are actually doing this for.  If you explain it is basically for the financial stakeholders, I would that’s not enough.

I think that it’s time now to take your mind in that power of position towards further stakeholders and to know how your actually impacting not only your clients, not just your customers, not just your financial stakeholders but maybe the communities, obviously the employees but the community beyond that or even maybe the general public.
What is it that your are contributing to that could potentially give the starting point to think about the role that you have and the benefit of that role and how you could have even more power in a positive way to have an impact in what you are doing?

Thomas:  Let’s say I have found my purpose or personal driving force, but I cannot change my role. How can I change the environment when I’m practicing purposeful leadership?  What impact can I expect from this or what impact can other people expect from this?  How can they see if it’s any different?

Julia:    Well my assumption would be what generally happens is when you’re in sync with your purpose, you either want to talk about it more or start leading your life differently.

Let’s keep it to your working environment, you start to lead from the perspective of your purpose.  You know what you really believe in, what you bring into the world.  The first thing that you should be changing is the way that you’re talking about yourself and the reason why you’re in this role. 

The second thing is that you align not only the goals of your role around this purpose but also the goals of the team. You seek to answer, why you are doing something  and how you are able to impact that, what goals you want to set for yourselves to get to the larger why, or to the higher reason for doing this. So that could be a second change within the working environment. 

The third thing could be the way that you work based on the purpose that you as an individual and then hopefully your team are also starting to follow. Then maybe the values that you’ve held so far may change, too, and align with the purpose. 

Let me give you an example.  The value of having more courage, the way you execute on this courage becomes a different, has a different finality or has a different sense. So maybe the values don’t change as much as the you execute on these values. 

And, last but not least, maybe the way you actually create the products in start to change. 

So I think what I’m trying to convey is it’s not going to be something that’s suddenly now that you’ve found your purpose the next day it’s going to be completely different. I think it starts to manage itself in and the first definitely way of recognizing this is in communication. The way that you hold yourself, the way that you describe yourself will change because you have now come to recognize ‘wow, now I know why I am here in this role, how I can contribute in this role and I’m going to start to talk about in a different way than I have been leading or working my role up until now.

Thomas:  Okay one of the questions, a personal question is how did you find your purpose?

Julia:    I actually joined the True Purpose Institute in San Francesco and let myself be coached in finding my purpose.  It was an eight month journey and I’m basically took myself both from an ego and an intuitive perspective though this process.  I knew that if I have the answers from an ego perspective and then from an intuitive perspective I will be able to clarify both in my logical mind as well as in my intuitive mind what my purpose is. 

What you need to go through during this process is to undo all of the conditioning, all of the limiting beliefs that you have or the fears that you have to go through, that pain and shadow work, in order to let emerge what is really in you that you have covered up or don’t want to look at anymore or never realized you had, to allow what’s in you to really come out and express itself.

Note:  This interview is part of my new book “Being Human in a Digital Age” to be published in 2020 in Germany.  If you like to read excerpts of the book join my “Being Human” Facebook group.  

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