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Exclusive Interview with Leadership Guru Author John Baldoni

As we watch corporations gain more and more control over our future, it is refreshing to find a business guru urging the business class and anyone with the knack for it to lead with purpose.

In 2012, Leadership Gurus International ranked John Baldoni in its top 10 global leadership gurus. His increasingly relevant book, Lead with Purpose, featuring illuminating stories, interviews, and profiles of leaders from a variety of fields, shows readers how to take their organizations to the next level with renewed focus and improved direction.

What does this bestselling business guru author have to say about Lead with Purpose, which builds on the foundation laid out in his groundbreaking title, Lead Your Boss?

John, why is ‘purpose’ so important to organizations?

John Baldoni: When organizations succeed it is because they know what they do and why they do it. We say they have “purpose.”

Purpose is a great, untapped reservoir that leaders can use to achieve sustainable results. Purposeful organizations value their people, innovate more freely, and link results to employee effort. They also know how to develop the next generation of leaders, which lays the foundation for continued success.

Purpose can be a driving force for an organization to achieve its intended results. Purpose forms the backbone of why an organization exists, upon which you can build vision and mission. A central challenge for leaders is to bring people together for a common cause. That’s purpose. Purpose is the why behind everything within an organization.

How do leaders instill purpose in organizations?

John Baldoni: Leaders instill purpose through their words and their actions. Their communications demonstrate a commitment to vision and mission, but their behaviors underscore its real importance. What a leader does is far more important than what he or she says. People want to see action and help achieve results.

And how do leaders instill purpose in people?

John Baldoni: Leaders instill purpose in people by putting them first. This means the entire organization is focused upon harnessing the talents and skills of the organization. A great example of this is Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies. Vineet told me he sees himself as responsible for helping his people innovate. He is a servant leader to his people and holds himself accountable as such.

Behavior matters. When employees see their leaders go out of their way to speak to employees, listen to them, invite their suggestions, and encourage them to think and do creatively, they believe that the leader has their best interests at heart. That is a form of purpose that resonates.

What about purpose for oneself?

John Baldoni: Purpose also needs to be nurtured. It gains resolve when faced with adversity. The ability to overcome obstacles and challenges is daunting but when accomplished gives us a great feeling of achievement. At the same time we need to nurture purpose by exposing ourselves to new opportunities. We need to learn continuously and we need to teach what we learn to others.

John, how did you come up with this leadership series? What was your writing process like? Did you expand on your lectures or articles in the book? Tell us how the book began to take shape in your head.

John Baldoni: At heart I am an essayist. That’s a fancy term for being a piece worker. That is, I write pieces of a book and then assemble when it comes time to put the book together. This means I don’t start on page one and end on page 200. I put blocks together then stitch them together. This works for the work I do but probably not for a fiction writer.

And yes I make use of outlines, but I don’t overdo it. That is, I don’t get hung up on the outline. Too many would-be writers spend more time on outlines than they do on writing. That’s very time wasting.

And here’s a key point: I learn as I write. That’s critical for me. I work out my ideas through words that I may assemble into an essay, a presentation or maybe a book.

Tell us about your blog.

John Baldoni:  I have written more than 400 columns/blogs for a variety of publications, including HBR, Forbes, Inc, FastCompany, and the WashingtonPost/On Leadership.

How did your Harvard experience affect the writing of this book?

John Baldoni: HBR opened the door for me as a leadership columnist/blogger. I have contributed over 200 blogs over years. Eric Hellweg, editorial director, and Sarah Green, senior editor, have been particularly helpful, and I am grateful to them.

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