Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Purpose Driven Leadership (PDL©) - as Stretch and (Eu)stress?

Courtesy : Google's image customized with our own add-on arts and wordings

As it turns out, Purpose Driven Leadership (PDL©), in its essence, is all about, leaders manifesting their emotional energies in – mindset (faith), heartbeat (love) and environment (hope) portfolio dimensions –- which brings up an interesting insight that, the ease, in which, leaders manage and manifest their “inside-out emotional energy traits” decides the effectiveness of their leadership. Simply put, the efficiency in which leaders manage their emotional energy flow, within these three portfolio dimensions, using PDL©’s five leadership threads (confidence, commitment, context, caliber and call-to-action) is the one that decides the effectiveness of their leadership, more specifically within the context of leading our Portfolio-Thread View (PTV© & EPP©, CPP© , PIP©) driven strategic planning engagements.

PDL - as a healthy chasm between “aspiration driven hopes” and “faith based visions”

Driven to learn more about, how such energy flow, helps certain leaders to be more successful than others (and hence, delivering superior performance and results) - we started our inquisitive journey of understanding the underpinnings of those emotional energy traits – from the standpoint of how those successful leaders, exhibit them in real world situations. For many purpose driven leaders, "being transformational" means, just pursuing opportunities that fit their company's “faith based visions and goals”. While that is the right thing to do, we also feel that there exist a better approach, in which these purpose driven leaders can “stretch” their leadership traits, to supplement their foundational leadership fit – and create a healthy chasm (or healthy stretch) between their aspiration driven hopes and faith based visions – to achieve higher levels of performance, as outlined above.

In other words, as depicted in the sinusoidal construct, that is embedded within the chasm part of the picture, leaders, usually start their leadership journey on a higher ground (or the crest) by exhibiting their faith based vision portfolio traits, however, sooner or later, they invariably, end up going through those tough trough times - and this is where PDL© framework encourages, leaders to elevate their “aspiration driven hope portfolio traits” greater than their “faith based vision portfolio traits”, so that they can pull their organizations quickly out of those trough seasons, and move onto the next crest experience of achieving superior performance - as outlined in the picture on top of the page.

The missing link in achieving superior organizational performance

With that said, we would like to hypothesize that managing the energy flow, efficiently within their leadership portfolios, not only directly impact the effectiveness of their leadership, but also, it impacts the overall organization performance. Rightfully so, we had prescribed PDL©’s 5 leadership threads (Confidence, Commitment, Context, Caliber and Call-to-Action) as an answer, to achieve such superior performance, in our blog, last week – more specifically, we had also stressed the importance of Caliber thread in discerning the differences between performance management and talent management (PT) processes, the missing link in achieving superior organizational performance.

What do we mean by that? Performance management is a point in time assessment of the results against pre-established goals, based on the opinion of one or two managers (which is highly subjective), whereas, talent management is assessing, whether an individual or an organization has the right set of talented people and processes (hiring, training, career plan, succession plan etc) in place, to sustain their business operations, in alignment with their 5-10 year strategic plan – and so, it is important that leaders make this distinction, to help enable organizations, to achieve superior performance.

Root causes inhibiting organizational performance

To properly manage these differences, we suggest organizations, to create a metrics based proactive PT culture, to objectively measure/monitor and manage both performance and talent management (PT) processes, on an ongoing basis. While it is easier said than done, in reality, PT processes, are the most difficult processes to implement, partly because, the causes inhibiting organizational performances, are not just PT related, rather, they are systemic, and hence, we need a systemic mindset in identifying the causes, leave alone fixing them. With that said, the top three systemic causes inhibiting organization performances, in our opinion are -

  • The negative energy based stresses that get released within organizations, from over (or under) stretching the leadership traits within the PDL©’s portfolio and threads.

  • The environmental factors – competition, insecurity, conflicts, politics, regulation and other unexpected events etc.

  • The caliber of people (or the quality of the seed) within the organizations i.e. failing to hire and/or train the right people i.e. not differentiating performance and talent management processes properly.

Leadership as Stretch and Eustress

If we had to further summarize these three causes, the foundational root cause, in our opinion is - the negative stress that is being released because of over/under stretching those leadership traits. Leadership stretch is nothing but, a misfit among the portfolio traits (more specifically the tension among the mind/faith, body/hope, heart/love portfolios) and stress is the negative energy that is being released, because of that misfit e.g. when mind overrides the intentions of heart and body. The good news is that leadership under PDL©, is also equipped to release positive energy based stress (or eustress) to nullify those negative energies, and hence, there exist a tension – and so, we call “purpose driven leadership as stretch and eustress”, very much like how strategy is being characterized as “stretch and leverage” by CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel.

Importance of discerning the differences within PT Management Processes – A Case Study

With that said, for leaders to be successful, we suggest that they are proactive and find less stressful ways of elevating their “aspiration driven hopes” greater than their “faith based visions”, to proactively release their eustresses, so that they can continue to neutralize the ill-effects of their negative energy stresses. One such proactive way, within our PT context here is, to properly discern the differences between performance and talent management processes – thus avoiding the negative energy that is being released into the work place, in the first place. For example, our research shows, that on an average, around 10-25% of highly talented employees are given "less than what they" deserve type reviews every year, as reviews in most companies, are highly subjective, and are usually based on the opinions of one or two “like minded” managers, or the so called clicks. This is where, we suggest organizations, to have a well documented governance process, in place, for the “second or third line senior leaders”, to weigh in, and perform a “deep dive” objective review (with a help of a neutral third party or in some cases even by external firms), and review all of their employee stretch goal results, that might have been achieved during the course of the years.

An example being a case study we did with one of our clients – where, we were asked to give an objective opinion, and to help resolve an unfair treatment experienced by handful of employees in one part of their organization. As we started our review, very soon, we noticed that few talented employees were given poor reviews, by their immediate supervisors (and their peers), in spite of the fact, these employees had exceeded their objectives. In addition, a handful of those talented employees, had also achieved 21+ stretch objectives, over and beyond their assigned objectives.

During our confidential interview process with few stakeholders(both inside and outside the organization who had a closer knowledge of the performance of those employees) , we also uncovered the fact that this handful of talented employees, were very forward looking talented individuals, and so, ended up doing some advanced level of work, that is very relevant for the organization’s double digit growth (over and beyond their assigned objectives) – which got their immediate supervisor(s) and their peer group, threatened, and so, they started suppressing (punishing?) those talented employees, by giving them poor reviews year-after-year. Not only that, they had also worked backwards, and started building their case for their wrong judgments, with solicited corroborations from few powerful, unverifiable/behind the scene, manufactured sources ( planted evidences?), which sounded to us like a deliberate attempt, to defame/diminish the superior performance of those talented employees.

Some More Findings from our Case Study

While we agree that this example, perhaps was an unfortunate, isolated event, and not a norm in most companies, we quickly learned that this example was just the tip of the iceberg, as some of the other findings (as listed below), were all the more alarming. To overcome those findings, we helped our client, to implement a well thought out, performance and talent management (PT) process, along with governance guidelines, so that senior leaders, can proactively pay a closer attention to these discrepancies, especially to those percentages of employees, who were wrongly judged and placed in the 1-5 scale. Some of our observations included, but not limited to are -

  • 10-25% of the employees who were given the rating of 1 are deserved to be 4 or 5.

  • 10-25% of the employees who were given the rating 2 are deserved to be 5.

  • Over 10% of the employees who were given the rating 3 are deserved to be 2.

  • Over 10% of the employees who were given the rating 4 are deserved to be 3

  • Over 10% of the employees who were given the rating 5 are deserved to be 3 or 2.

What does this observation list tell us? Performance and talent management processes are not only broken within most companies today, but also, these companies, end up nurturing wrong set of people, and hence, resulting in the exodus of talented people, who are critically needed to help them during these tough economic times, in the first place. Not only that – those talented employees, eventually might get hired by their competitors, and so, might cause them, double damage as well – and so, it is in the best interest of the organizations, that they pay a closer attention to this type of PT cover-up challenges, and nip them in the bud, before they spread too much into the larger parts of the organization.

Proactive leadership is nothing but effective energy management!

With that said, if we had to further summarize these PT challenges, it all comes down to the leaders, being proactive, in dealing with those PT based negative energies, that gets released into their organizations, more specifically, by those insecure middle managers, who try to sideline those talented employees, with an end goal of protecting their turfs. The solution, we had suggested to our client was, not only to implement the PT management processes, but also, a senior leaders/HR led, coaching process, to the middle managers, to renew their in-side out energy portfolio sources on a continual basis, and by, meticulously executing their 5 leadership trait threads. In a way, we call this type of proactive leadership coaching, as an aided energy management process. Once senior leaders (including the HR leaders), learnt to master such proactive energy management coaching process with a help of PDL©’s five threads, we started seeing some tangible changes happening, and today, our client is well positioned to continue to raise their “aspirational hopes” greater than their “faith based visions”, thus achieving superior levels of performance.


Creating a healthy chasm (or stretch) between “aspiration driven hopes” and “faith based visions” – is what helps leaders to exhibit their positive energy driven transformational leadership traits, in an exemplary way, further enabling them to achieve superior performance. Simply put, for purpose driven leaders to be transformational, they must elevate their aspiration driven hopes greater than their faith based visions. We call it as leadership as stretch or leadership intent. For this type of leadership intent to come to life, we suggest leaders, to master this energy management process, with PDL©’s five leadership threads, so that, they can continue to raise their aspiration driven hopes, greater than, their faith based visions, thus achieving much higher levels of performance.


  1. Hello Charles,

    This is a great read as it provides a very clear picture of what I would call "Rugged Leadership Landscape" .It turns people blind to climb a low crest forgetting the landscape keeps changing and there exists a fitter crest. To get to that crest the leaders must align their energies by streamlining their "aspiration driven hopes” with “faith based visions” to tackle the real causes of problems. These root causes are rightly outlined by you as talent-based.
    I have a question: your five leadership threads (confidence, commitment, context, caliber and call-to-action) are they still five or they grew to six to accommodate the talent dimension?
    The support you give to the role of Talent Management is convincing because of the very strong support you backed this with survey data.
    One last word is to thank you for the lovely illustration you added to the article.
    Truly, Charles you have written a brain-opening article.

  2. Wow, what a great title - Rugged Leadership Landscape – I really like this poetic title, and it perhaps can become the title for another article. To your point, you are spot on that leadership in 21st century, is all about navigating these rugged landscapes – that is filled with both mountains and valleys. As you have alluded -yes, while leaders’ objective is to reach the crest (mountain top), history is always filled with many examples, where leaders have always have gone through the valleys, before reaching the crest – and, in a way, it makes sense also, as it gives them a compelling reason to appreciate the value of crest, only when they have gone through a trough experience.

    Growing up , my parents used to quote me a saying “You will appreciate the goodness of shadow, only when you walk through the torchy wilderness” – it is indeed true even in business world, that companies can appreciate and sustain their market leadership, only when it is hard earned - otherwise, they will lose it soon, during the next storm.

    To your point about adding talent as a separate thread – Sure, while I agree that Talent qualifies on its own merit to be a separate thread, especially within the 21st century context, in a way I had folded it under the larger Caliber thread – as Caliber takes in to account of larger human capital challenges, where Talent is a key component. I can go either way, and should our readers feel that it needs to be added as a separate thread, we would be happy to do so.

    Again, readers like yourself are the ones who help us to do more research and come up with timely articles on these difficult topics – which most bloggers choose not to address, as they sometimes could cost us professionally. However, we choose to differ, as we have been convicted to write what is right for the larger society.

    Again, appreciate your grand comment Ali.


  3. Hello Charles,

    I appreciate your response and esteem of the Rugged Leadership Landscape title
    I choose not to vote at this moment on whether Talent should be treated this way or the other as I have not firmed up my mind.

    I am responding also to thank you for the great lesson your parents taught you. It is a lesson for all of us at all time

    I am waiting for your next post

  4. Hello Charles,

    Another insightful article, as always.

    Most business leaders that I work with are acutely aware of the costs and benefits of engaging their workforce at all levels. Active employee engagement has strong linkages to key business outcomes, including:
    • Retention
    • Productivity and performance
    • Profitability
    • Customer satisfaction and retention
    • Safety

    What many of these managers struggle with is they don’t actually understand what or why their specific behaviors do not elicit positive responses from employees?

    In our coaching, we encourage them to focus on three leadership behaviors that most successful and positive managers practice:
    1. Use a strengths-based approach
    2. Provide frequent recognition and encouragement
    3. Maintain a positive perspective when difficulties arise

    In our experience, these practices have a direct effect on employee engagement, and each is an observable and testable behavior. None of these characteristics are innate, but all can be learned.

    In other words, very few executives intuitively know:
    1. How to work with people’s strengths
    2. How to automatically give frequent credit where due
    3. How to respond with your best game face when the going gets rough

    Business leaders need to focus on the areas in which an employee excels and how his or her strengths can be leveraged to benefit the employee, team and organization. It’s something to think about when you are looking at your team’s results. What can you do as a manager to bring out the best in people? Focus on what they do well rather than wrong. That’s what positive leaders do. In other words, your assertion that leaders must elevate their “aspiration driven hope portfolio traits” greater than their “faith based vision portfolio traits” is right on target. Well done!

  5. You bring up some great points Surya– Yes, leadership at the end of the day, is all about active employee engagement at all levels– as well engaged active employees will indeed voluntarily exhibit these inside-out leadership traits at all levels and voluntarily get things done, as opposed to, someone telling them, what they are supposed to do – which as you have alluded, has a huge impact on the 5 areas of business outcomes, you have mentioned.

    Again, with leadership coaching, being one of your strong fortes, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment that coaching is all about leaders exhibiting these positive attitudes on a daily basis (or leading by example) – as action (more than words) is what brings the best from people.

    By all means, a great comment and I am humbled and honored to hear from a leadership coaching expert like you, especially within the context of this article. Appreciate it again Surya.

  6. Indeed, Charles... 'inside-out leadership', 'leading by example' are such powerful key words.

    This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing today’s leaders. You have beautifully portrayed this in your articles. As leaders continue to shift their emphasis away from the traditional role of managing and controlling, they need to improve their understanding of human behavior and how to bring out the best in people (i.e., differentiating performance and talent management processes properly).

    For many leaders, this means change. Regardless of external circumstances, rank, or previous experience you can improve your leadership skills. Leadership qualities stem from internal attitudes and learned skills, not outside situations. Effective leadership consists of more than just an intellectual understanding of leadership characteristics. The characteristics and skills must be incorporated into your style. They must be consistent with your beliefs and values, and part of your actions and decisions. That's what 'purpose-driven-leadership' is all about (and you capture that essence in all your articles so beautifully.) Leaders inspire others, improve outcomes, bring out the best in people, make mistakes, and continuously learn and improve. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to influence behavior and align your resources in the direction that will ensure continued success.

    Deeply appreciate sharing your wisdom, Charles!