The LifeBlood of Leadership


The world needs transformational leaders.


But guess what the world doesn’t need anymore of?


Transactional leaders.


See the difference between a transactional leader and a transformational leader is striking. Here are few of the of the things that characterize transactional leadership:


• Transactional leadership emphasizes achieving results at all costs.


Transactional leadership is less about long term growth and more about instant gratification.


A transactional leader uses manipulation to leverage those around them to advance their personal gains.


In the business world, transactional leadership could be ignoring moral and ethical standards in favor of boosting profits (think the recent Volkswagen Emissions Scandal). 


In athletics, this could be the coach that is committed to winning at all costs. Cheating, verbal abuse, and intimidation become normalized in the name of getting “results”


Transactional leadership is short sighted, because the focus is solely on producing measurable results in the form of profits, wins, or success (often at the expense of the people involved).


Transformational leadership is different.


A transformational leader takes the longview.


They hold the belief that success in the short run might be possible as a result of using manipulation and coercion to drive results; but sustained excellence is only possible by playing the long-game.


If I had to boil down what distinguishes these two types of leaders to one simple difference it would be this:


Transformational leaders lead through mission and purpose, while transactional leaders lead through coercion.


Put a different way, the more committed a leader is to their core purpose the more transformational they will be in their leadership.


And transformational leadership changes lives.


The Utility of Leading through Mission

Ok, so you might be thinking…


‘I understand the difference between transformational leadership and transactional leadership, but isn’t this just a matter of preference? What if I can get results through manipulation and coercion? Isn’t that the point of leadership anyways, to produce results?’


here’s the reality:


The only way to achieve sustained excellence over the longterm is by leading through mission.


Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples:


In Jim Collins book, Built to Last (a great read if you’re interested) he takes a look at some of the most respected and successful companies in the USA. What he found was that the companies that consistently outperformed their competitors and remained at the pinnacle of their industries were the companies that were driven by a specific purpose.


To quote Collins,


“Organizations driven by purpose and values outperformed the market 15:1 and comparison companies 6:1”  


Industry leaders like Southwest Airlines, Procter and Gamble, IBM, BMW, and many more were identified as companies that were driven by purpose rather than profit. They emphasized mission rather than results. 


And you know what happened?


They outpaced their competitors in nearly every measurable metric and consistently gave higher returns to their stockholders. In the long run, these companies actually ended up with higher profits when compared to other companies that primarily focused on making money. 


This is the great irony about transformational leadership.


When leaders focus on their mission and purpose, they transform teams, organizations, and businesses; and the measurable results tend to follow.




When leaders focus on what results they achieve (i.e. profits, wins, points) they can often resort to manipulation, dishonesty, and transactional behaviors: and ultimately are less successful over the long term.



Why is this case?

I believe that we are designed to function in a specific way (there is also a lot of science to back this up, if you want to read more about how our brains are wired to relate to purpose driven movements, check out Simon Sinek’s book), 


In short, we are most attracted to leaders, companies, and teams that operate from a deep sense of purpose and mission. And it is those types of leaders, companies, and teams that ultimately are the most successful. 


But practically speaking why are they the most successful? 


Here are 7 reasons why purpose driven leadership is successful over the long haul:



1. Increases Clarity

One of my favorite authors on leadership Andy Stanley has always said that:


“The clearest message always wins”


This is a simple, yet incredibly powerful characteristic of leaders that lead on mission. Mission and purpose provide clarity, and clarity always speaks the loudest and communicates the clearest.


The clearer and more specific you are with your team, the more quickly you can rally your players around a central concept or idea.


It’s hard to internalize complicated concepts, but anyone can get behind a simple statement of purpose.



2. Builds Trust

People that share common values trust each other more implicitly than those who only share a goal of producing a “result”.


When employees or team members are fighting together for a common purpose that they all believe in they start to trust each other. The greatest “team building” activity that any leader can accomplish, must center around the stated common purpose of that team.



3. Direction through Storms

Inevitably, a time will come when your team will need to navigate through some difficulties.  Here’s a great question to think about:


As the leader, what will you lean on to help you navigate through the storms?

If you can return to a central purpose, you will be able to get through the tough times because you know what your foundation is built upon.



4. Cuts out the Crap

The most dangerous thing to any leader is distraction. 


Distraction gets you off mission.


Distraction makes you race down rabbit trails.


Distraction makes you lose focus and dilutes your effectiveness.


Don’t get distracted. Cut out the crap and focus on your mission. You and your team will be glad you did.



5. Gives you Flexibility

Simon Sinek said in his book, Why:


“Operating from ‘why’ gives you the flexibility and freedom to change the what and how.”


Leading through mission gives you great flexibility in how you execute your statement of purpose.


In his book, Sinek goes on to give the example of the railroad companies that built the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860’s. Many of them went out of business as cars and other means of transportation were developed. Why did this happen? Because their mission was too narrow. There stated purpose probably centered around simply, “building railroads”.


But what if their mission was, “to move people”. If their mission was to move people, then they could have changed the what and how while still staying true to their mission.



6. Increases Productivity

Consider this quote from Steven Covey:


“Most people say their main fault is a lack of discipline. On deeper thought, I believe that is not the case. The basic problem is that their priorities have not become deeply planted in their hearts and minds”


All of us are in a constant struggle against ourselves. We are always fighting against our impulses to take the path of the least resistance.


We crave the easy way out! The bad news is that the easy way out, is always the least productive.


As Covey adeptly pointed out, our problem is not from a lack of willpower or discipline. We all desire to lead with excellence and produce at a high level, but discipline for disciplines sake is never enough.




When the roots of our discipline are deeply connected to our purpose, our productivity will skyrocket. Productivity grows out of discipline and discipline is grounded in our purpose.



7. Ignites Momentum and Drives Movements

Mission ignites momentum and drives movements. Movements inspire people to join in a cause that is greater than a single person or organization. They envision a future that ‘ought to be’ and exist to turn that vision into a reality. 


Teams that are organized around a common system of values and vision are able to create dynamic communities that are committed to a greater cause. These communities (or Tribes) are the vehicles for transformational change.  


Growth Exercise

Transformational Behaviors


Mission is the lifeblood of transformational leadership and becoming a transformational leader doesn’t happen on accident. Great leaders work hard to keep first things first and keep everything else secondary.


When a leader leverages their purpose to maximize their effectiveness they change from simply being transactional to becoming transformational.


And transformational leaders should identify the specific behaviors that help push their team to new levels of performance. 


Here are two questions to help you think through what the transformational behaviors might look like for your team. 


1. How are you reinforcing the values of your mission?

Leading through mission requires that the values of your mission be constantly and habitually reinforced.  



Your basketball team might have a mission to be, 


“the toughest team in the country”


If that is the stated mission, what are some creative ways that you are reinforcing the value of toughness. Do you recognize it at practice? In the film room? To you make a point of recognizing players when they make tough plays? Do you have any kind of visual reminders in the locker room?


2. How are you personally living out the mission?

For example, say your team’s purpose is 


to inspire others through selflessness, encouragement, and care for each other

As the leader, what are the ways that you are actively living out this purpose statement? What are the ways that you are inspiring your team through encouragement? Selflessness? Care for your players?



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