Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Purpose Driven Leadership (PDL©) Framework– the missing link within the Strategic Planning Processes?

Our article, last week on the topic of PTV+ TRIO, appears to have triggered quite a bit of enthusiasm, not only within the strategic planning circles, but also, within few other professional networking circles – as evident from, both the formal and informal questions, we received from our readers. As we were thinking about the best way to respond to those questions, we quickly came to the realization that there seem to be a missing link within our strategic planning processes i.e. lack of a “customized, inside-out leadership framework”, to better manage the nuances of the strategic planning engagements of the 21st century.

In other words, most experts agree with our assessment, that a customized, inside-out leadership framework, is one of the most important pillars (out of the top three essential pillars listed below) for successfully executing the strategic planning engagements - and hence, we decided to cover that subject within today’s blog – as part of answering our reader’s questions.

  • Method in the form of an appropriate strategic view – e.g. our Portfolio-Thread View PTV© with EPP©, CPP© & PIP© frameworks.

  • Motivation – in the form of a compelling OD culture driven collaboration/motivation process, energizing the stakeholders to come together for a common cause like strategic planning – e.g. our Power through Collaboration (PtC©) process promoted by Dr. Steve Willis.

  • Means – in the form a customized inside-out leadership framework, facilitating the method and motivation pillars of the strategic planning engagement, from start to finish, in a flawless manner – e.g. our Purpose Driven Leadership (PDL©).
With us already have covered the first two essentials with our PTV© and PtC© processes respectively– we thought that it would be appropriate to propose an outline for our “customized, inside-out leadership framework” called PDL© as part of today’s blog. I hear someone asking – why yet another leadership framework? While we agree, that there are plenty of leadership frameworks available within the market place –we feel, that there is a need for a customized, inside-out leadership framework, to tackle the specific nuances of strategic planning engagements of the 21st century, given the fact, PTV© is one of the very few purpose driven strategic planning frameworks available, within the market place today. Yet another inspiration for our work comes from the impressive work done by the OD/Leadership coaching experts like Pete Delisi and Surya Ganduri who rightfully so, also has also placed the OD culture driven leadership framework, at the center of their systemic strategic planning approach.

Defining the multi dimensional concepts like Leadership

First things first - what is leadership? While there are plenty of definitions available, most experts agree that leadership is one of the most difficult concepts to define, partly because of its multi dimensional nature. This is perhaps one of the reasons, most experts still have some difficulty defining the infinite concepts like leadership (& culture, health etc) 100% effectively, for us to understand their fullest meaning. In other words, leadership is a variable concept (like size) and often is expressed, in terms of “more or less” - and so, it cannot be completely defined by the traditional “attribute based models” that are commonly used to define finite things like water or juice. Hence, it is important that we go back to the basics and understand the challenges involved in defining these infinite concepts, before defining what leadership is.

Another approach that is commonly used to define the infinite concepts is the “intention/outcome based model” – which is good in expressing the maximum possible “functional or emotional manifestation” of these multi dimensional concepts; however, they also have a limitation of expressing the outcomes from a just a “point in time” dimension only. This means, that there is always some delta meaning of the concept (fullest meaning – maximum meaning) that cannot be completely expressed in a definition format. This delta (fullest meaning - maximum meaning) varies from definition to definition, time to time, and human being to human being.

With that said, a balanced definition approach, deriving its best features from both attributes and outcomes based definition models, that are threaded together in the form of “leadership causal traits model” seems to be best way to go, given the inherent limitations of attribute and outcome based models. Yet another rationale for us taking a balanced approach is the need for standardizing the leadership traits (i.e. attributes and outcomes) with a common lingo, across both individual and empowered organizations, ultimately fostering the highest levels of leadership styles in the form of a causal thread with the “confidence, commitment, context, caliber and call- to-action” sequence– to help us achieve superior levels of productivity and performance – as explained in detail, later in the article.

PDL©’s Five Leadership Portfolios glued by the Purpose seed within a sinusoidal triangular construct!
With that prelude, let us see, if we can reenact our balanced definition, in the form of few leading questions and group them within a portfolio construct.

  • Is it something we have it inside of us that is manifested in the form of a confidence creating trait? - Attribute based trait

  • Is it something one exhibits during some of the difficult seasons of life or business? - Attribute based trait

  • Is it something one exhibit to embrace each other unconditionally? - Attribute/Outcome combination trait

  • Is it something we recognize when we see? – Outcome based trait

  • Is it a tangible thing one can reap and experience? - Outcome based trait

As part of our attempt to define these attribute/outcome based traits in a balanced manner, we have grouped the attribute/outcome traits into five portfolios, and have chosen a sinusoidal trio construct (sinusoidal wave that is overlaid on top of the triangular construct - see picture above) – to better pictorially represent the nuances of these attribute/outcome based traits. We have also reversed the triangular construct of the framework for an important reason of aligning two of its base vertices to the two upper crests of the sinusoidal construct, with a goal of communicating an important message, that these leadership traits are governed by the seasonality principle, very similar to how PTV is governed by the seasonality principle, to resolve its six macro dilemmas.

As we can clearly see from the table above, that the leadership traits that are grouped under Faith and Hope Portfolio are mostly “attribute traits”, whereas, the traits within Love portfolio have the characteristics of both attributes and outcomes. On the other hand, Service portfolio (service) and Value portfolio (value) are mostly outcome traits – yet, all five of them are bound together, beautifully by the invisible glue (or instruction), called the purpose seed.

Yet another point that deserves our attention here is that – Faith and Love Portfolio traits are placed on top of the two crests of the sinusoidal wave (& hence the two bases of the triangle), whereas the Hope Portfolio traits are placed on the trough (& hence the vertex of the triangle) of the sinusoidal construct – to communicate another important message of aligning leadership traits with business seasons. In other words, exhibiting right type of leadership trait for the right moment is more important than exhibiting the vanilla leadership traits themselves - and rightfully so, PDL© encourages leaders to exhibit the Hope portfolio traits (more than the other portfolio traits) during those turbulent trough times of the business life cycle, and Faith/Love portfolio traits during the crest times of the business life cycle.

Another interesting aspect of PDL© is the emergence of seasonality driven sinusoidal wave pattern within PDL©’s purpose driven leadership journey. Like our personal lives, most businesses, also start their journey on a higher ground (or the crest) by exhibiting the Faith Portfolio traits, however, sooner or later, they invariably end up going through those trough times - and this is where PDL© encourages, leaders to exhibit Hope portfolio traits, so that they can pull their businesses out of the trough seasons quickly, and move onto the next crest experience exhibiting the Love portfolio traits - which then, is followed by Service and Value Portfolio traits - as outlined in the picture on top of the page.

While this sinusoidal wave pattern is the typical path for most businesses, history is also filled with examples, where some businesses, get stuck on the trough zone for an extended period of time, partly because of the failure on leaders’ part, to exhibit those optimistic Hope portfolio traits. Granted, trough or valley situations are bound to happen in most business journeys, but what is more important is, leaders steering the businesses, to come out of those trough times quickly. This is the reason, PDL© framework is designed with a sinusoidal construct to stress the need for leaders to equip themselves with a balanced set of five Portfolio traits, so that they can apply their intuitive judgment, and use the right portfolio trait, for the right moment, thus minimizing, the so called trough seasonal impacts. In other words, the means by which leaders achieve the end, is equally important as that of the end itself - as we learn from the three prime time, servant leaders of all times - Nehemiah, Omar Bin al-Khattab and Krishna - who exhibited the Hope portfolio leadership traits, during some of the difficult seasons of their leadership missions.

PDL©’s five Leadership Threads Enabling the Transformational Change leadership!
Now that we have laid out the leadership traits of PDL© in a portfolio format for easy understanding – the next important thing is, highlighting how the framework comes to life, in a real world leadership situation. One of the acid tests for leaders (per most experts) is how they handle the transformational change leadership, that is very much in demand needed to transform the 21st century businesses, where, the transformational/change leader is not only expected to exhibit the purpose driven versatile leadership, but also, be able to adapt to new conditions, open to innovative ideas, and be prepared to deal with both expected and unexpected events – all simultaneously, as echoed by fellow strategists like Gerald Nanninga and Ali Anani.

With that said, the natural follow-on question is how PDL© inherently helps one to be a successful transformational change leader? The answer lies in the important insight that transformational change leadership is not an event, but an ongoing process (or one can call it as a movement to be precise) – which means, each stage of that transformational change movement, has different business characteristics, and hence, need different set of leadership traits, to address the nuances of those characteristics.

As it turns out, every one of the leadership traits from PDL©’s five Portfolios, happen to form five unique threads, to meet the leadership expectations of transformational change experience, in alignment with the seasonality driven sinusoidal/triangular pattern, as outlined below, and on the picture on the top of the page. It is interesting to note that each of these threads, not only act as the stepping stone for the next thread, but also, map1:1 to PTV’s principles and frameworks, in a sequential manner, as outlined in the summary table below.

PDL©’s Five Leadership Threads in Action

Now that we have learned that the transformational change is an ongoing process or movement, it brings up yet another differentiating point about PDL©, that PDL© is an “inside out” framework as opposed to the “outside in” model used by most of the other popular leadership frameworks. What do we mean by that? PDL© handles the five stage transformational change process, first by creating the confidence within the hearts and minds of the leaders and followers alike, which then triggers them to voluntarily to do great things, as opposed to the other popular frameworks, that encourage leaders to exhibit the “call to action” leadership traits from the outside-in. This is one of the reasons, we suggest our readers to experience the five stages of transformational change process in a real word assignment (business, charity and/or society), so that they can better exhibit these five “inside out” leadership traits in the threaded sequence listed below.

Interestingly enough, these five threads, also align perfectly with the inherent meanings of our five fingers and so, we suggest our readers, to imprint these threads into their respective finger prints. Please note that our PDL finger printing sequence starts from the thump finger, followed by the small finger, and then the ring finger, middle finger and finally the index finger. In other words, PDL's fingers print sequence is– Thump-Small-Ring-Middle-Index.

1. Confidence creating "faith-hope-love thread", led by the Thump finger, that is known for its asserting power, confidence and will power – and rightfully so, this thread happens to be the foundational leadership thread that sets the right tone for the leadership, where all the other activities derive their strength from, as without confidence there is no leadership. Having the confidence on the part of leaders and followers alike, gives the assurance to the stakeholders that the organization can do what it is set out to do. Confidence usually starts with the faith – i.e. believing in the organization’s purpose when there is nothing substantial to believe in – as faith is substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen – which by the way, brings up our next attribute called hope, within this thread. While faith might be the starting point, hope is the thing that actually brings life to that faith, even on situations, when an organization is going through some of its worst difficult times. Hope may be the only thing, those organizations, may have to hold onto, during those darkest moments– as there is always a mountain top experience after the valley experience – which brings up our next portfolio called love that is supposed to be exhibited as part of those mountain top experiences. While some question the relevance of manifesting love portfolio traits within business environments, we choose to differ, and would even argue that love is one of the key traits, that needs to be exhibited in a business setup, as long as it is mixed in the right dosage with other portfolio traits.

2. Commitment producing "trust-aspiration-empathy" thread, led by the Small finger, that is known for its intuitive trust, energy and empathy– As the saying goes, confidence without commitment has no meaning - and rightfully so, confidence producing faith at times might fail us, whereas, the commitment producing trust will never. This brings up the need for the next stage of leadership, where the confidence created in the earlier thread manifests itself as the action with a “trust-aspire-empathy” mindset. In other words, within PDL©’s causal chain; if “faith-hope-love” thread is the cause, then “trust-aspire-empathy” is the effect.

3. Context creating "mindset-body space-heartbeat" thread, led by the Ring finger, that is known for setting the context for the relationship (creativity, expression and love) –rightfully so, this thread sets the right context for the leadership, as the text without context is the pretext and so, we cannot stress the importance of this stage of leadership anymore, given the fact, leadership always needs a context to operate. Context, in his case means, understanding stakeholders’ heartbeat, mindset and body space within their day-in-the-life cycle. Without this context, our prior threads of confidence and commitment have no relevance at all – and so, success of PDL leadership lynches on this ring finger thread called context. As it turns out, this thread of leadership is also stressed by the WestPoint leadership framework and interestingly, our context creating thread traits aligns perfectly with the “BE”, “KNOW” and “DO” focus areas of WestPoint framework as well.

4. Caliber producing "talent-skill-wisdom" thread, led by the Middle finger, known for its analytical reasoning (analysis, synthesis and discernment) – With Human resources seem to be emerging as the most important capability within the 21st century organizations, we have no words to express the importance of this thread as Caliber of an organization can make or break a situation in a snap moment. Interestingly enough, middle finger (along with Thump) is the only finger capable of making the snapping sound (symbolizing the make or break situation for organizations), especially, when leaders fail to hire/train the right set of people with the right caliber (i.e. mix of talent, skills and wisdom). At this juncture, it is important that leaders understand the subtle differences between skills, talent and wisdom, which sometimes are collectively called as “TALENT”. The reason we would like to highlight this subtle difference at this juncture is that certain sub-components of TALENT are more important than the others depending upon the strategic direction (organic core growth vs. adjacency growth vs. disruptive growth vs. some combination of the three) leaders decide to take their organization to –

  • A skill is something that we learn (like driving a car) that needs to be “nurtured/trained” within the talent management process.

  • A talent is something that comes naturally (like singing or public speaking) that needs to be “encouraged” within the talent management process.

  • A gift is something that is given us from a Higher Power (e.g. wisdom) that needs to be “treasured” and used in right proportion at the right time for the right purpose.

With that said we cannot stress enough the importance of leaders identifying these sub-component level differences at the individual level and develop a customized TALENT management processes to grow the followers at the personal level. Discerning those differences early on at the individual level will help the organization to adopt the right TALENT development strategy for the right sub-component of TALENT. For example, nurturing/training strategy that works well for skill development, in general, does not work well for talent development. On the other hand, motivation process in general works well within the talent development process - as talents need encouragement, mentoring & the platform support.

Yet another trap leaders fall into is merging talent management process into the performance management processes – and so it is important to highlight differences between them as well. Performance management is a point in time assessment of the results against pre-established goals, based on the opinion of few managers, 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 its business operation, in alignment with its 5-10 strategic plan. Without this distinction, leaders will end up nurturing people with the outdated yardsticks of last century and developing wrong set of leaders who are not sufficiently equipped to handle the challenges of 21st century.

5. Call-to-Action producing "know-how-action drivers-Inspirational insight" thread, led by the Index finger that is known for calling the shots (knowledge, defense and offense ) – Last, but not the least, leadership, at the end of the day is walking the talk and talking the walk – which means, leadership is all about blending these “call to action” thread traits of “know-how, recommendations and intuitive inspirational insights” and translating them into actionable decisions that are appropriate for the moment - and until that happens, everything else has no meaning. With that said, “talk the walk and walk the talk” is the motto of this thread.

PDL© vs. other popular leadership frameworks

While it is true that our PDL© framework derives some of its best characteristics from other popular leadership frameworks like servant leadership, it also has few additional nuances to overcome some of the perceived shortcomings of servant leadership, especially, within a business s environment – i.e. SL’s over emphasis on servicing the followers. For example, Servant leadership, sometimes is wrongly perceived, as a style promoting too much of a charity mindset within a profit minded businesses. This is where, our balanced PDL© framework, with its balanced set of Portfolios and Threads help both leaders and followers alike, to exhibit the business focused leadership traits -with the “right portfolio/thread trait for the right moment” mindset. Having said that, we would be the first one to agree, that servant leadership is a timeless treasure and as a matter of fact, PDL© in its best form, always is manifested itself as servant leadership, especially when leaders are expected to exhibit the “unconditional love with a greater than myself” type of mindset - as alluded by Steve Faber and his team in their G5 leadership paradigm. I guess, no matter how we slice it, old is gold, as reiterated by scripture – the greatest is Love!


Finally, in closing, let us not forgot the fact that, some of the best leadership moments in history, have always happened, when leaders decided to put their faith into action, in the form an unconditional love and service, regardless of the environment - whether it being business, society and/or government. The classic example, that is very appropriate for this moment, is the leadership exhibited by Mother Teresa – and the impact she has made throughout the world, with her purpose driven leadership style. There couldn’t be any better moment, than this time of the year, to honor her, given the fact; we just finished celebrating Mother’s day. I am sure, we all could hear her whispering from Heaven “Happy mother’s day” as outlined in the picture above – echoing the slogan “thing of purpose is joy forever”, and so, it is time for business organizations to embrace PDL©, following the footsteps of Mother Teresa.


  1. Charles,

    I read this article twice and I need to read it a third time for it is full of great ideas. I want to add a sixth finger to your magic hand illustration that is the finger of complexity. The reason is that the sequence you show brilliantly is non-linear and interference of phases is greatly possible. Yet; you managed to explain your idea in a fashionable manner.
    As much I am happy to have my name mentioned in your article, still I wonder if this is an honor that I deserve.
    Just thinking of the complexity of the subject article scares me; yet you took the adventure and sailed safely

    A lovely reading that keeps my mind tired thinking.

  2. You bring up a great point that these leadership traits at times can exhibit in both liner and non linear fashions. With that said, as you know better than I do, in mathematics, some of the nonlinear regression patterns can be solved within a linear domain by a suitable transformation within model formulation.

    Similarly, PDL driven leaders, by exhibiting transformational change leadership traits, in a way also are capable of transforming complex non linear behaviors within an organization into manageable linear behaviors, and hence achieve greater results. In other words, PDL helps them to transform the complex organizations in to simple organizations. In that sense, I would perhaps call your sixth finger as - finger of royal leadership as hexadactyly in some Greek traditions are linked to royal lineage!

    As always, you bring up some great point Ali and your points well noted.


  3. Charles,
    Yes, some complexity may be treated the way you said as long as we use a non-reductionist approach.
    I have to note your brilliant naming of the six finger- though I wish I could pronounce the Greek word.

  4. Charles,
    You seemed to have explained the various leadership traits in a more colorful way than I had imagined previously. The things that you pointed out – faith, hope, love. trust, aspiration, empathy etc. are all typically human feelings. And dealing with those feelings is a delicate matter for all leaders. In order to be effective one need to be in touch with people’s feelings. An organization needs talented people committed to team success, internally. Externally, you must consider the feelings of customers, investors, and the community at large. If any significant groups of people are against you, you quickly drop from good to no good.

    All human beings learn certain feeling rules but they differ according to culture, social class and gender. Feeling rules are usually highly flexible and their personal interpretation influences one's personality. The lines are not dotted anymore for the purpose driven leadership. We are now looking at the leadership framework from a different angle.

    Beautifully done; I read the article twice already and it rightfully deserves.


  5. Hello Surya, Yes, as you have correctly alluded, it all comes down to the inner emotions (or feeling as you call it), as they are the ones that manifest as leadership traits in these three dimensions of – mindset(faith), heartbeat(love) and environment(hope) - that eventually decide the outcome of leadership. This is yet another reason; we need the inside-out framework like PDL that manifests the leadership traits as per the inner emotions, as opposed to the popular outside-in leadership frameworks.

    Granted these inside-out feeling rules differ to an extent, from culture to culture, social class to class etc- but, as long as they are all glued together by a deep sense of common purpose, we can together achieve great things. Again, great point Surya,