Meaningful management: How to find purpose as a leader

Line of light bulbs with one illuminated

A ‘lightbulb moment’ on my leadership journey

As a rookie local government manager, I’ve been trying to get a grasp of transitioning from getting meaning & purpose from operational outcomes to ones which come from being more strategic at work.

Without getting too deep about it all, I think I’ve been finding it difficult to find anything massively tangible so far.

This isn’t to say that I don’t feel like I’ve been making a (positive) impact, nor have I not been enjoying myself – I really have – but I think it’s more about recognising that the usual ways of finding purpose and meaning at work are changing for me.

I think the problem is, I’ve been looking for answers in the wrong places.

Focusing on others

The epiphany finally came when I listened to one of the cracking podcasts from the guys and girls at Slack. If you’ve not experimented with Slack as an internal collaboration tool I highly recommend it.

Find wellbeing through contributing towards other’s success

A particular segment of the podcast – or ‘single serving’ as Slack put it – features an interview with Tom Rath. Tom is an author and researcher who studies the role of human behaviour in business, health, and well-being.

In the interview, he talks about to how to find wellbeing through focusing more on the people your work is helping and contributing towards other’s success.

This could be by passing on knowledge, encouraging & supporting self-development or helping others to problem-solve rather than solving problems for them.

Encouraging disruption

I think it’s also about giving your team the space and confidence to experiment without fear of failure.

As Paul Taylor from Bromford in his latest blog succinctly puts it:

[It] isn’t about policies , systems and protocol. It’s letting people do what they do best — being brilliant as only THEY can be.

I really like Paul’s CEO’s attitude to actively encourage rule breaking in order to disrupt the very foundations of their organisation too.

There’s a massive opportunity working for a council to stand out and be different and I, with the rest of our team, want to take it.

Recognising what’s valuable

No longer is it about just finding purpose from completing work packages and through ticking off operational to-do lists.

It’s now more about smiling when you hear someone passing on a nugget of knowledge that you’ve previously shared with them, seeing the satisfaction on a team member’s face when they solve a complex problem and being proud when a piece of finely crafted reactionary content created by your colleagues gets the engagement it deserves.

All things that have happened in my time so far at Doncaster Council. Powerful, purposeful stuff.

Over to you – how do you find purpose and meaning at work?