Purpose and Leading Up

We have a close friend who holds a senior position in a large organization. She is a purpose driven person who is deeply versed in the principles of positive psychology. So much so, that we once quizzed her about extensive ability to influence, even in situations where most of us would believe influence is not possible.

She told us about her grandfather. She spent much time with him. He was an extraordinary man who loved her and at every turn did things to bring out her potential. He challenged her, supported her, and expected her to succeed. She said that this relationship laid an important foundation. Over the years she has had to struggle to learn to lead but the process always seemed aided by her relationship with her grandfather. In other words, she had a transformational grandfather and knowing him has aided her in becoming a transformational leader.

As she told this story she naturally flowed into a second story illustrating how she has been able to succeed where everyone else failed. She had a boss who was very experienced in terms of content and this allowed him to acquire the very high level, well paid job above her. Unfortunately, when it came to relationships, he was extremely toxic.

Toxic means poisonous, deadly, lethal, or noxious. In this case it means his behavior killed relationships. When he took a flawed position and someone tried to assist, he would fly into a tantrum. The behavior was so extreme that ninety percent of his direct reports quit. After many failures, he was eventually removed.

While he had nothing good to say about anyone, there was an exception. He would regularly share deep praise for our friend. This claim caught our attention. We asked her how it was possible.

She told us that when he would come to a flawed decision, she always challenged it in a supportive way. He would go into a tantrum. Unlike everyone else, she refused to retreat. Because she was purpose driven she knew to always put the collective good ahead of anyone’s self-interest. She never lacked courage when it came to this principle.   So she would clarify the collective purpose, and ask questions that would expose the flawed logic. The man thus would come to his own discovery of his mistakes and adjust. In other words, she was using her transformational influence skills to lead her boss.

We asked her how her relationship was different from all the other relationships he had. She said, “I was the only one he ever trusted.”


  • Have you ever known such a toxic authority figure, how did you react?
  • What does purpose have to do with courage?
  • How would you explain the success of this person?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s