We all know what it feels like to be managed, to be organised, monitored and held accountable for our roles at work, however, how often are we truly led towards an inspired shared vision?

Management is vital to the execution of timeous work and quality service delivery, however, it is through leadership that employees are motivated towards committed and engaged in productive action. It is thus the role of leadership to not just manage employee performance but to provide meaning and purpose to their staff, thus creating a shared desire to succeed.

At 4Seeds, we focus on building knowledge and resources that ensure Meaningful Leadership practices. Meaningful Leadership is a concept we have independently developed in an attempt to combine the varied approaches out there.

Providing a consolidated theory ensures we deliver leadership development programmes that can assist with honing practical skills that ensure effective, empowered and impactful leaders in South Africa.

Meaningful Leadership is comprised of a combination of three of the predominant leadership approaches in current literature.

These approaches are:

  • Transformational Leadership
  • Servant Leadership and
  • Authentic Leadership

Before we delve deeper into explaining these three branches, here is a diagram showing the main attributes, characteristics and behaviours of Meaningful Leaders.

The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme aims to harness the potential of leaders to achieve success through authenticity, service and transformative action. We believe that with the combination of the three areas mentioned, leaders can gain a holistic perspective and positively influence not only their staff but society as a whole. So let’s unpack the key attributes, characteristics and behaviours of Meaningful Leaders.

The 5 Attributes From Authentic Leadership

For years we have believed there is a line between “work” and “life” however this can often become an inhibitor to employees developing the trust necessary to commit to an organisation. Being an Authentic Leader means being “real”. Acknowledging that you are a whole person and that regardless of the environment you have core values, beliefs and strengths that carry you forward. This authentic approach to leadership ensures value-congruent action, meaningful connection and real impact, which is why we at 4Seeds believe Authentic Leadership is key to becoming a Meaningful Leader.

These 5 core attributes are:

Purpose – Authentic leaders know their purpose in life and from this comes the passion to drive commit action towards achieving it.

Values – When one has awareness of their core values and strengths, one is better able to direct behaviours that value congruent.

Relationships – This is the ability to communicate vulnerability and the “true self”. By creating a culture of open communication and personal connectedness, lasting relationships are built and team unity is ensured.

Self-discipline – Knowing the goals and remaining perseverant and consistent despite challenges. Meaningful Leaders are aware of challenges but continue to strive, they admit mistakes and vulnerabilities and thus become role models of strength and resilience for their staff.

Heart – Compassion, patience and connection are fundamental to creating a supportive and engaged team culture.

At 4Seeds we like to think of these 5 attributes as being the way you arrive at work. By bringing your passion, self-awareness and desire to build meaningful connections to the workplace you are already on a great path to becoming a Meaningful Leader. However, once you arrive at work, and the chaos hits, there are characteristics one can employ which encourage organisational citizenship for both yourself and your staff. These characteristics are best explained through the Servant Leadership approach.

The 10 Characteristics of a Servant Leader

At 4Seeds we believe that leaders are not at the top of the pyramid but rather are doing the job on the ground in service of the greater organisation. This is why we have chosen to bring in the 10 characteristics of Servant Leadership. The idea of Servant Leadership is a way of behaving rather than a leadership style or approach. It involves the leader being “servant first” rather than “leader-first”.

There are 10 key characteristics that ensure a “servant-first” approach:

  1. Listening – Learning to listen to respond instead of reacting. This is done by hearing the whole story without interrupting, asking questions to promote understanding, and giving constructive feedback.
  2. Empathy – Respecting another’s viewpoint, putting our own ideas aside in order to objectively respond to another’s thoughts, ideas and needs.
  3. Healing – This is about acknowledging the wholeness of each individual. Taking care to provide the adequate and necessary resources (both physical and psychological) to not only get the job done but to keep staff engaged and happy.
  4. Self-Awareness – As mentioned above, self-awareness is a key component of being a leader. Placing this as a top priority in the organisation will ensure that you will stay relevant and on top of your game.
  5. Persuasion – Using authority and power in order to get things done is not going to get meaningful results. Learning to use persuasion to reach a group consensus will ensure everyone is moving towards a shared vision.
  6. Conceptualisation – See the bigger picture and recognise the role of each individual in achieving that vision.
  7. Foresight – There will always be resistance. Being able to predict weaknesses or roadblocks is a vital part of ensuring you can persevere and stay disciplined.
  8. Stewardship – Align your actions with your values. Take responsibility for your roles and mistakes. Lead by example.
  9. Commitment to growth – Development and focus on the growth and learning of each individual as they contribute to the greater whole.
  10. Building Community – This final characteristic is all about creating a culture of collaboration and care. When a community is created it will drive committed action and engagement.

As you can see, the parallels between Authentic Leadership and Servant Leadership are plenty which is why we have chosen to combine them into a singular approach. Together these attributes and characteristics can ensure that leaders are making meaningful steps and enhancing relationships that will result in profitable and impactful results.

The final approach included in Meaningful Leadership is that of the behaviours of a Transformational Leader. It is within this theory that we see the attributes and characteristics discussed above come together into 4 succinct leadership behaviours.

The 4 Behaviours of A Transformational Leader

A Transformational Leader is one who “goes beyond exchange relationships and motivates others to achieve more than they thought was possible” (Arnold et al., 2007). This leadership approach was first introduced by James McGregor Burns in 1978 and has since gained a vast body of research. There are 4 behaviours that comprise a Transformational Leader. These are:

  1. Idealised Influence – “we do what we say”- Embodying the values of the organisational and taking value-aligned actions builds trust and unity with all stakeholders in the organisation.
  2. Inspirational motivation – This is a two-step process. Firstly having a clear consolidated vision of where the company is going and effectively communicating the individual’s role in achieving this vision and secondly having defined high expectations of self and staff.
  3. Intellectual stimulation – For staff to be engaged there needs to be autonomy. When we are managed, we are expected to perform for the sake of “getting it done”, when there is autonomy staff are able to drive their own performance and are more likely to challenge the status quo.
  4. Individualised conceptualisation – Recognise the individual within the organisational system. Each employee needs to be heard, coached towards their goals and recognised for their individual achievements or order to feel that their work is meaningful.

In Summary

Becoming a Meaningful Leader is about remaining authentic, ensuring you are being a servant of the organisation as much as your staff and engaging in behaviours that encourage transformation and growth. At 4Seeds we strongly believe in consolidating and simplifying the leadership process and thus have developed Meaningful Leadership as a combination of the various leadership approaches that exist. We hope this article has provided some insight into how you can become more impactful in your actions and create lasting, meaningful change for your staff and stakeholders.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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