Leadership and the Quest for Meaning

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Sections of this topic

    Meaning at Work

    Gurnek Bains and his colleagues at YSC Consulting have written a book called Meaning Inc: The Blueprint for Business Success in the Twenty First Century. In it they argue that it is critical for leaders to create organizational cultures that have meaning and are meaningful for team members. The authors state that these cultures are evidenced by key attributes such as an invigorating sense of purpose that goes beyond business success and which makes people feel they are changing society as opposed to just servicing needs.

    Role of Leadership and Creation of Meaning

    Gurnek et al state that creating meaning is the most important factor in generating high levels of commitment and engagement in contemporary organizations. The authors suggest that there are four primary challenges for leaders that want to develop organizations that create and provide a sense of meaning for employees.

    • The first is something called a Focus on “Why”. This is about mobilizing the efforts of employees by clarifying why their activities are worthwhile and meaningful.
    • The second is the cultivation of a Good Enough Mindset. This is said to be a leadership perspective or mindset characterized by an absolute commitment to serving the capacity for creative growth of one’s colleagues and followers.
    • Third is something called a Meaning Making Spike. A spike is a towering strength possessed by a leader that, when properly developed, enables the person to have a unique and special impact in any situation they engage. The authors believe that spikes tend to happen in one of three primary categories: Creativity, Coherence, Compassion, and Courage.
    • The fourth and final challenge is, and the one that is the foundation for the other three, is Insight. In this case, insight is viewed as an understanding of leadership strengths and areas requiring development, an advanced understanding of organizational culture/context, and an appreciation for the needs of organizational stakeholders.

    Importance of Meaning

    I personally believe that – barring any profoundly dramatic disruptions to the global business landscape – the importance of creating meaning for organizational members is only going to increase in the years to come. The question is whether leaders are prepared to have such meaningful influence. And, if not, what can be done to make it so.