Leadership capability patterns: Purpose

Part of an ongoing series of articles on leadership capability patterns; this article looks at some leadership patterns that relate to purpose.

In 1999, with two others, I founded a web development consultancy, Base Innovate. I took the plunge to set things up, get things going, find customers, take on staff; with the plan that the others would join me as the company grew. As you can imagine, this role was primarily about leadership and management, with some time still spent consulting with customers and initially leading the projects.


As I worked to establish what we were doing, we initially suffered from a lack of purpose. While we were great at business analysis, project management, and development, when potential customers asked us what we did, our answer was “what would you like us to do”. We thought that was pretty clever, but as you can guess, it didn’t strike our customers that way.



We realised that we had to identify what we were in business to do, and what our services were.

The second habit from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People, is particularly apposite in this context: “begin with the end in mind”.

We needed to be clear about what our customers wanted and what this meant we had to be able to deliver, then we could adjust our mission, so that our outcomes and purpose were aligned.

Leadership capability framework

Being a decisive leader means being able to understand and work through why our teams exist, what is their purpose and what do our customers need (internal and/or external). I represent this with the purpose–service axis in the leadership capability patterns.


Some leadership capability patterns relating to purpose

  • Clear purpose: If people in your organisation don’t understand your role or what your team does, take time to develop a concise explanation, an elevator pitch. Then work that through in terms of how you plan to realise that purpose.
  • Customer first: Ensure that your team is focused on delivery, how it adds value to the organisation, where are the changes that improve the bottom line or market position.
  • Services: To help communicate and promote what your team does, define a catalogue of services, and keep it up-to-date.
  • Goal alignment: When you’re setting goals with each member of your team, ensure that these are clearly tied back to the team’s overall goals, and in turn back to the organisation’s overall strategy and goals.
  • Get out of our comfort zone: Lastly, to ensure that you deliver, find ways to get your team involved in work that stretches them and helps them develop.

I think of this as the third capability level in the leadership capability patterns, focusing on the wider organisation and customers, understanding how we contribute at a strategic level.

Explore the related articles in this series:

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