Have You Discovered Your Leadership Purpose?

Once you connect your personal purpose to the work that you do, everything changes.

While on a flight home from Switzerland about a decade ago, Henna Inam had an epiphany.

She was returning from her company’s annual awards ceremony, where she and a handful of other employees were honored for their work. It should have been the pinnacle of her career, but, at 30,000 feet, Iman realized she felt empty. So she asked herself what was missing.

“Up until that point, I had thought achieving success would make me happy,” she says. “When I was one of 10 people in a company of 90,000 people recognized for our results, and it didn’t make me happy, I went in search of purpose.”

She soon discovered that her life’s purpose was helping others find theirs. Iman, now a global speaker, author, and CEO of Transformational Leadership, will share her purposeful leadership insights at the IHRSA Women’s Leadership Summit on November 8 during Athletic Business' AB Show 2018 in New Orleans, LA.

What Is Leading with Purpose?

According to Iman, leading with purpose is about connecting your personal purpose—what is meaningful to you about your work—to the work that you do.

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“As I write about in my book Wired for Authenticity, our leadership purpose is at the intersection of creating value for our stakeholders at work in a way that is personally joyful or meaningful for us,” she says.

“For example, my leadership purpose is about inspiring transformational leaders who make the world a better place for all. In my work with my executive coaching clients, they define their own leadership purpose. As they connect authentically with purpose, they are more inspired by their work. They are more willing to take risks in service of something bigger than themselves. They are more engaged and resilient. Their inspiration and enthusiasm is contagious.”

Finding Your Purpose

If you’re questioning whether you lead with purpose, you probably aren’t.

“When you’re leading with purpose you are working in service of a bigger idea that energizes you,” Iman says. “The pursuit of the idea is in itself fulfilling. You work with greater engagement, commitment, passion. If you’re not feeling engaged or fulfilled most days, the chances are that you have not yet connected with your own leadership purpose.”

“When you’re leading with purpose you are working in service of a bigger idea that energizes you.”

Henna Inam, Global Speaker, Author, CEO

Transformational Leadership - Atlanta, GA

Even if you aren’t jumping out of bed every morning, there’s still hope. One of the exercises Iman uses to help clients find their purpose is asking them to reflect back on their peak experiences at work.

“What were the times that they were most joyful? What were meaningful experiences? As [you] examine these for yourself, there are themes that will emerge,” she says. “Another exercise is to imagine that you’re 80 years old, looking back at a life well-lived. What are you particularly proud of? What contributions have you made?”

Purposeful Women Leaders

While leading with purpose benefits all genders, Iman has found women tend to be more holistic in their approach. In addition to striving for work/life balance, women are often motivated by their impact on others.

“Yet, many women still struggle with stereotypes. I’ve heard this called the Goldilocks Syndrome,” she says. “Many women leaders find themselves stuck between gender leadership stereotypes that define leaders as decisive, aggressive, and independent but expect women to be collaborative, care-taking, and accommodating.”

Women leaders are often stuck between this proverbial rock and hard place. If she exhibits the qualities of a traditional male leader, she may be perceived as aggressive or domineering. If she conforms to the female gender stereotype, she might get labeled as someone who isn’t “leadership material.”

“Many women leaders find themselves stuck between gender leadership stereotypes that define leaders as decisive, aggressive, and independent but expect women to be collaborative, care-taking, and accommodating.”

Henna Inam, Global Speaker, Author, CEO

Transformational Leadership - Atlanta, GA

“I hope this changes for future generations of women, but still in many organizations, these stereotypes hold women back,” Iman says. “Either too hard or too soft, but never just right. Tapping into our own sense of purpose allows women to transcend these stereotypes—to be decisive and tough, and empathetic and collaborative, all around powerful, in service of a bigger cause.”

Iman will help IHRSA Women’s Leadership Summit attendees find their cause—and purpose—during her keynote address on November 8.

“It will be an interactive session where participants will get to both understand the power of purpose, and also explore their own leadership purpose,” she says.

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Marianne Aiello

Marianne Aiello is the Senior Digital Content Manager for IHRSA. While her average day includes writing articles, monitoring social media, and crafting IHRSA’s digital strategy, the best part of her job is covering IHRSA events across the globe. When she’s not at work, you’ll find Marianne at an indoor cycling class or, more likely, binging on Netflix.