Want happier employees, more productivity? Practice ‘purposeful leadership,’ study finds

BRIGHTON, England — Having a boss who has a strong sense of purpose and sound morals leads to a happier and more productive workplace, a new study finds.

A new report released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in England was the result of a comprehensive study, which included surveys, personal interviews, and focus groups among various stakeholders in the workplace.

Meeting between employees at office
A new study finds that a manager showing “purposeful leadership” will enjoy happier workers and see more productivity in the office.

In surveying more than 1,000 employees and their bosses at five firms, the researchers found that when managers displayed “purposeful” behaviors— such as displaying high character, a clear vision, and a commitment to all stakeholders— both employee and the company as a whole enjoyed a host of benefits.

Subordinates who felt like their boss demonstrated these qualities were less likely to quit, more satisfied and willing to go the extra mile — not to mention performed better overall — while displaying less cynicism.

“Our study shows that the modern workplace is as much a battle for hearts and minds as it is one of rules and duties,” says Catherine Bailey, a professor at the University of Sussex, in a press release.

With the modern-day expectation that companies don’t just focus on the bottom line, philosophies such as “purposeful leadership” have been able to emerge, the researchers argue.

This study provides a glimpse into a fairly new field of inquiry— one in which there are few practitioners.

During the course of their research, the researchers found that only one in five bosses in the UK fashion themselves as a “purposeful leader,” which highlights a large opportunity for managers to rethink their leadership style.’

“The real challenge is not in trying to achieve perfect match between leaders’ and organisational  values, but in ensuring that they complement each other in ways that best suit organisational circumstances at a given time,” says Dr. Amanda Shantz, one of the study’s co-authors. “This includes supporting leaders to successfully recognize and negotiate the differences between what they stand for and what the business intends to achieve, without detriment to the individual leader or the company’s operations.”

The researchers say that a firm can take many actions to foster purposeful leadership, including adopting appropriate workplace policies, offering role-modelling exercises for leaders, implementing a core vision, and providing sufficient training and development.

The study’s findings were published on the CIPD’s website, and can be found here.