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Purpose Driven Leader


Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl experienced the horrors of concentration camp life and emerged with a message of hope and optimism for the world. What is less publicized is that Dr. Frankl\'s …

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl experienced the horrors of concentration camp life and emerged with a message of hope and optimism for the world. What is less publicized is that Dr. Frankl\'s ideas have powerful implications for organizational leadership as well. This presentation explores commonalities between Dr. Frankl\'s ideas and other popular leadership theories. Please visit or email for further information.

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  • 1. The Purpose-Driven LeaderViktor Frankl’s Principles at Work
    Daniel Crosby, Ph.D.
  • 2. The majority of presenting concerns could be largely subsumed under two categories:
    Lack of meaning – no purpose, unable to articulate a passionate striving or reason for being
    Lack of control – stress, depression, helplessness resulting from feeling powerless
    My Observations
  • 3. Meaning
    Part I
  • 4.
    • Austrian psychiatrist
    • 5. September 25, 1942 – Frankl, his wife, and parents shipped to Theresienstadt concentration camp
    • 6. October 19, 1944 – moved to Auschwitz
    • 7. April 27, 1945 – liberated by American troops
    Viktor Frankl
  • 8.
    • Father died of starvation
    • 9. Mother and brother killed at Auschwitz
    • 10. Wife killed at Bergen-Belsen
    • 11. Manuscript stolen and destroyed upon transfer to Auschwitz
    Viktor Frankl
  • 12.
    • Over 12 million copies currently in print
    • 13. New York Times called it one of the ten most influential books of all time
    Man’s Search for Meaning
  • 14.
    • We can find meaning at all times, even in suffering. Those prisoners who held to a meaningful vision of the future fared the best.
    • 15. In all circumstances, we remain our freedom to choose our reaction to a given event.
    Man’s Search for Meaning
  • 16.
    • “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”
    – Friedrich Nietzsche
    Frankl’s Mantra
  • 17. Prisoners possessed of a deeply-felt reason for being enjoyed psychological and physical benefits not afforded those who lacked such meaning. Not only were the purpose-driven prisoners happier, they were actually healthier and more likely to survive than those who succumbed to a belief in meaninglessness.
    This meaning took the shape of large goals, rooted in deeply-held personal beliefs, as well as viewing seemingly un-extraordinary events as special.
    Frankl’s Observations
  • 18. “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”
    “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”
    “Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.”
    “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.”
    Frankl’s Observations
  • 19. Frankl’s Ideas in Leadership Literature
  • 20. “I believe the most important attribute for a leader is being principle-centered. Centering on principles that are universal and timeless provides a foundation and compass to guide every decision and every act..” –Stephen R. Covey -
    Covey on Meaning
  • 21. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage - pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically - to say  "no" to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger "YES" burning inside.”
    “How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and do what really matters most.” –Stephen R. Covey -
    Covey on Meaning
  • 22. Know this guy?
  • 23. Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers” singles out “meaningful work” as one of the things that differentiates those that excel from those who do not
    Gladwell suggests that passion, not genius, is what differentiates the Beatles and Bill Gates from their contemporaries
    Without viewing our work as meaningful, Gladwell states, we will never put in the necessary time and effort to become an outlier
    Gladwell’s Meaningful Work
  • 24.
    Meaningful Work Video
  • 25. “The thematic goal is not a number, and it is not even specifically measurable. It is a general statement of a desired accomplishment. It requires a verb, because it rallies people to do something. Improve, increase, reduce, grow, change, establish, eliminate, accelerate.”
    • Patrick Lencioni, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars
    • 26. Lencioni uses the rallying cry concept as the key point of unification in his writing on family life, team building, and organizational unity.
    Lencioni’s Rallying Cry
  • 27. What adjectives come to mind?
  • 28. Flow – the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
    Colloquialisms for the mental state include being “in the zone”, “on the ball”, or “in the groove.”
    Flow is the study of the psychology of optimal performance.
    Meaning and “Flow”
  • 29. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has identified “making meaning” as one of the components necessary to achieve flow.
    “Creating meaning involves bringing order to the contents of the mind by integrating one’s actions into a unified flow experience…People who find their lives meaningful usually have a goal that is challenging enough to take up all of their energies, a goal that can give significance to their lives.” – Flow, p.217
    Meaning and “Flow”
  • 30. “The meaning of life is meaning: whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life.”
    “Purpose, resolution, and harmony unify life and give it meaning by transforming it into a seamless flow experience…Every living moment will make sense, and most of it will be enjoyable.” – Flow, pp. 217-218
    We bring meaning to our jobs, and they in turn become meaningful.
    What is the number one predictor of job satisfaction?
    Meaning and “Flow”
  • 31. “What this involves is turning all life into a unified flow experience. If a person sets out to achieve a difficult enough goal, from which all other goals logically follow, and if he or she invests all energy in developing skills to reach that goal, then actions and feelings will be in harmony, and the separate parts of life will fit together-and each activity will make sense in the present, as well as in view of the past and of the future. In such a way, it is possible to give meaning to one’s entire life.” – Flow, pp.214-215
    The author believes that meaning is what finally allows us to be satisfied holistically, instead of looking for partial fixes (e.g., thin, rich, etc…).
    Unity of Purpose
  • 32. Pujols Family Foundation
    “If you talk to me five minutes, four minutes are going to be about my faith and my family, and for one minute, if you wanna talk about baseball we can talk about baseball.”
    Motto: Some things are bigger than the game.
    On PFF Night – Watch out!
  • 33. Finding Meaning in the Mundane
  • 34. “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy” -
    Mindfulness – a heightened awareness of the world around us
    Those who “will be happy when”, never are.
    Meaning in the Mundane
  • 35. Who here would like to be a letter carrier?
    “Going Postal” – boredom, repetitiveness, exposure to elements, irritable customers
    “I don’t just deliver mail. I see myself helping to connect people to other people. I help build the community. Besides, people depend on me and I don’t want to let them down.”
    Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. – Herodotus, Greek historian, 1st Century B.C.
    She brought meaning to her work and it became meaningful.
    Meaning and the Mail
  • 36. Pick your least-preferred work task.
    How can you view this task in a more meaningful way?
    What tasks do you reduce to meaninglessness that actually serve a higher purpose?
    What positive aspects of your work are you rushing past?
    Applying our learning
  • 37.
    • Whether studying high-performing teams, organizations, individuals, or optimal performance, the presence of meaning is a critical common factor that is ignored at the peril of the individual or organization.
    • 38. Overarching meaning increases performance, structures our goals and our time, and gives unity of purpose to our endeavors.
    • 39. Finding meaning in the mundane allows us greater happiness, makes work more enjoyable and opens our eyes to possibilities.
  • 40. Creating Meaning
  • 41. What is the most meaningful thing you have ever done? What made it so meaningful?
    What three adjectives would you most like to describe you? What three adjective do most describe you?
    Reflect on a “boundary experience”. What insights did you have in that moment?
    Creating Meaning
  • 42. What will it say?
  • 43. Deeply-felt/Passionate
    Widely applicable
    Balances hedonism and altruism
    Respects community and individual welfare
    Discovered in boundary experiences and through personal reflection
    Don’t tie your success to anything less than the goals that matter the most to you. All subordinate goals (e.g., money, power) are pursued only because we assume that they will lead to a meaningful existence.
  • 44. Freedom of Choice
    Part II
  • 45. “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
    “When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.”
    Frankl on Freedom of Choice
  • 46. Situation = Behavior/Emotions
    How would Frankl have acted given this formula?
    How would he have felt?
    What would have become of him? Short-term? Long-term?
    How common is this way of thinking given our current economic milieu? Exchange your name for his.
    Situation =Behavior/Emotions
  • 47. Situation + Interpretation = Behaviors/Feelings
    How does this point of view change your approach? Recession example.
    What have you surrendered control of that you could take back?
    Frankl said…
  • 48. “What I ‘discovered’ was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.” – Flow, pg.2 -
    “Flow” and Freedom of Choice
  • 49. Locus of control-refers to an individual’s generalized expectations concerning where control over events resides. In simple terms, who or what is responsible for what happens.
    Internal LOC – responsibility rests with us
    External LOC – responsibility rests with the environment
    Locus of Control
  • 50. Boone (1996) et al. reported the CEO locus of control was significantly associated with profitability in small business
    7% of small businesses with Internal LOC CEO’s failed
    45% of small business with External LOC CEO’s failed
    Locus of Control and Profitability
  • 51.
    • Part I – dogs restrained in a harness, one set of dogs can stop shock by taking action, other set of dogs the shock stops randomly
    • 52. Part II – dogs placed in an “escape box” whereby they can avoid shock by stepping over a small fence
    • 53. Dogs conditioned to receive random shock became “learned helpless” and would not take action to stop the shock
    • 54. When we believe in the myth of external LOC, we buy into our being victims of our environment; apathy and helplessness ensue
    • 55. An optimistic attributional style (a belief that things will get better) is the factor most predictive of avoiding learned helplessness in humans
    LOC and Learned Helplessness
  • 56. External LOC Contributes Heavily to Stress, Depression, and Negativity
  • 57. Increased medical costs-between 75 and 90% of visits to family practitioners are stress-related
    Increased absenteeism-The number of employees calling in sick because of stress tripled between 1996 and 2000.
    An estimated 1 million plus American workers are absent each day due to stress.
    550 million work days a year lost to stress-related absenteeism.
    Organizational Impact
  • 58. Stress-related absenteeism is estimated to cost corporations $602 per worker each year
    A three year study conducted by a large corporation found that 60% of missed days were related to psychological variables
    Ivancevich and Matteson-estimated stress-related costs to the U.S. economy at over 10% of the GNP
    Higher turnover-a number of studies indicate that job stress and job satisfaction are inversely related
    Lower employee engagement
    Organizational Impact
  • 59. Decreased short-term memory
    Impoverished ability to think rationally
    Decreased problem-solving ability
    Less ability to concentrate
    Depression has been shown to lead to poorer recall of difficult material
    Negativity has been shown to decrease ability to engage in creative endeavors
    Organizational Impact
  • 60. External LOC is linked to poor executive performance
    External LOC = Learned Helplessness = Inaction
    External LOC = higher rates of stress and depression which have measurable, negative organizational impact
  • 61.
    • The stress and negativity that ensue from a lack of feeling in control lead to decreased problem-solving skills, creativity, memory, concentration, and ability to think rationally.
    • 62. Difficulty can exalt as surely as it can cripple if we retain our belief in our freedom to respond to our environment in meaningful ways.
    • 63. E.g. – Conversation on the train from the airport.
  • 64. Consider the current economic downturn.
    What are negative scripts, or “I cant’s” that you have bought into as a result of the recession?
    List five personal and/or professional opportunities that have emerged as a result of the recession.
    Applying our Learning
  • 65. Derailers
  • 66. Cognitive dissonance – uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously.
    To resolve cognitive dissonance, we must either change our behaviors or change our beliefs.
    Beware Cognitive Dissonance
  • 67. “Goals can lead into all sorts of trouble, at which point one gets tempted to give them up and find some less demanding script by which to order one’s actions. The price one pays for changing goals whenever opposition threatens is that while one may achieve a more pleasant and comfortable life, it is likely that it will end up empty and void of meaning.” –Flow, pg. 223
    Beware Cognitive Dissonance
  • 68. Choose an accountability partner
    In one week, report your five opportunities that have emerged as part of the current economic climate
    At two weeks, report your professional raison d’etre