Leader Effectiveness: Inspiring Purpose, Alignment and Strategy Execution

There is a whole gambit of capabilities that Leaders should aspire to. This spotlight thought piece is about a Leader’s need to inspire (amongst others) a sense of shared purpose and direction and create a sense of alignment to the achievement of organisational goals.

Some of this can be achieved by ensuring that key stakeholders are inspired through focussing their minds and efforts on creating a positive and sustainable future. Encouraging each individual’s special and valued contribution will go a long way towards achieving this.

To communicate the purpose, direction, values and required outcomes, leaders need to be across their topic. They need to understand it and be clear on how this fits together in terms of goals, milestones and the resource requirements. Being relentlessly pragmatic is important and in particular being in-touch with the realities of the current and potential operating environment.

Involvement is the secret weapon

Leaders should consider interacting frequently by holding meetings with others to facilitate the sharing of strategic thinking. They need to demonstrate how elements of the strategy fit together and contribute to the higher level goals. Each key work area and team member must know what they need to do personally to help achieve the strategy.

This is about fostering a "wider involvement" by being active in communicating to colleagues, clients and other stakeholders the vision, goals and objectives of the organisation and work area.

However, just being aware of the organisation's vision and mission is not enough. Leaders also need to play an active role in identifying and supporting specific activities and initiatives through which it can be implemented.

Building a common sense of purpose and shared direction amongst colleagues is not a matter of a leader just sharing with colleagues what the vision, mission and key objectives are. A leader needs to help build an understanding amongst their colleagues as to the 'why' and the wider rationale of the organisation's purpose and direction.

The leader needs to develop an ability to act as a conduit between strategic direction and organisational goals and objectives. Linking the vision to goals, and the goals to actions can only be achieved by clearly thinking through the relevant means-end chains. These linkages then require regular, clear and positive communication.

Leaders need to be sure they are interpersonally connecting and reaching out to others and engaging them in the strategic process. Then it is necessary to develop action plans and follow-up mechanisms to keep both the ideas and implementation alive.

Case Study: Large Format Strategic Workshop Framework

One tried and tested method is to hold periodic wider involvement strategic workshops to identify the most pressing gaps, issues and opportunities. Some facilitated examples have been 2 or 3 day interventions with up to a 100 participants in attendance. A schematic for such a workshop process is shown in figure 1.

The Strategic Arrow concept has a visual impact providing clarity and engagement. Ideally it would be centrally visible to the workshop participants. The organisation's aims and context are summarised and understood in terms of Environment, Vision, Values, Targets and Processes. These are usually framed in terms of external opportunities, strategic imperatives or thrusts.

Phase 1: The External Opportunity Gap

Mobilising cross-functional teams to work through these prepared summaries enables the identification of priority ‘external opportunity projects’.

These can be clearly documented with defined inputs, processes and outputs for each workshop element. The benefit of a cross-functional group avoids relying only on departments or functional areas already responsible for creating demand or promotion. The mix stimulates the innovation.

Phase 2: The Internal Capability Gap

The second phase of such a workshop requires the identification of any necessary internal improvements in performance and processes. Functional teams need to take the phase 1 opportunities proposed and consider the organisations ability to deliver on these over the time frame for the plan's implementation. Parallel teams can consider where there might be gaps in terms of processes and performance challenges moving forward and compile projects that will close those gaps.

The benefit of using functionally adjacent teams e.g. production and quality, ensures that the right expertise spotlights realistic and necessary projects.

The wider involvement process inspires a shared sense of purpose and direction. Action learning team-building exercises can be incorporated that enhance the innovation and energy of participants.

However, to avoid such a workshop being seen only as an annual event involves regularly checking the linkages between work area's priorities and those of relevant wider organisation agendas. This could involve regular project checks and linking with others to make sure that there is still goal alignment vertically and horizontally with other entities. The model answer that experience says works best is to hold 3x2 day workshops to get to the project output stage and have 1 day follow-ups twice yearly.


This combination of a well organised purpose, direction, values and execution requirements need to be communicated in a way that enlists the hearts and minds of stakeholders. This is done by ensuring everyone has a part to play and thereby makes a meaningful contribution. The alternative of a senior team just dictating the agenda is far less likely to deliver either the potential or the required energy to deliver the goods.

In medium to larger organisations in order to achieve the desired results a ‘wider involvement’ workshops initiative can significantly speed up and enhance the Alignment process. Apart from creating a feeling of ownership by all concerned, meaningful projects can be created and delegated that deliver external opportunities and internal capability. Supplemented with regular review and progress reporting on project progress this will deliver a leader’s wildest dreams.


Dr. Paul Robinson, CEO Team leadership Services

Contact: paul@tls360.com