It's easy to become a good leader... if you follow a simple equation, says leadership coach Neil Jurd OBE

I like the idea of magic. I don’t mean David Blaine magic for entertainment, or Wizard of Oz magic for impressing people with power and position. I mean Hogwart’s magic – an invisible force for good. And I believe there is something as powerful as magic, which can make the world a better place. That thing is leadership. Leadership is an underused force for good.    

This is not the leadership of vacuous politicians or billionaire space-travellers. It’s the leadership of normal people throughout society, in teams and businesses, leading change to make things better. This isn’t a hierarchical leadership. I see leadership as something vibrant and energetic, a bit like a swarm of bees working together. A leadership that explores and germinates and serves the greater good.  

There’s a lot of information about leadership available. But what I’ve come to realise is that very few people really understand leadership. I find that frustrating. Because leadership is easy and can be learned by anyone. Every good leader I have seen – headteachers, youth leaders, soldiers, CEOs – follows the same simple equation. I call it the leadership equation. If you can apply this, you can lead.    

This is the leadership equation: Leadership = Purpose x People.  

Leadership is about having something you are trying to achieve, and then recruiting and energising people to help you. Getting the purpose right is essential – it’s probably the greatest motivational tool there is. The purpose needs to be clear, so everyone understands it, and compelling so everyone is excited by it. So: plain simple language and not too much of it, and something that people feel energised to support.    

I work with the headteacher at a large and successful secondary school. I’ve been working with this head and his senior leaders for several years, supporting them in their team and leadership development. Attendance is well above the national average. Exam results have improved every year for the past three years. That isn’t unusual. Lots of schools do as well as this or better. But this isn’t an average school.    

This school scores highly on every measure of deprivation, and the school building has serious structural problems – enough to be covered on the BBC news. Forty three per cent of the pupils receive free school meals – that means their joint household income is less than £7,500.    

So why does this school do so well in such challenging conditions? It comes down to purpose. The school’s purpose, which emerged from our coaching sessions, is  "to use our vocation of teaching to give an unfair advantage, leaving no door closed". When you think about that statement it is audacious – a licence to level the playing field, giving an unfair advantage to children who statistically haven’t had much advantage.  

The statement worked and continues to work. The school is thriving. When you visit, there is a buzz. The staff feel engaged. When people are committed to a purpose, you will get a great deal of commitment and engagement without needing lots of rules and regulations to manage activity.  

You know that feeling when you are doing something that you think matters, and you lose track of time? People who have bought into a purpose are motivated and engaged. People without purpose tend to languish. So the first task of a leader is to set a clear and compelling purpose.  

The second part of the equation is people. Leaders increase their impact by engaging with people. Sustainable leadership isn’t about working all hours. That comes at a cost and only works until you burn out. You don’t have to be the cleverest in the team or the most dominant. The best leaders are just members of the teams they lead. As a leader, you multiply your impact in the world through the number of people you lead. The more people you can connect to your cause, the more powerful your effect is likely to be. Gather the right people: bright people who are excited by the clear and compelling purpose. And once you have the right people, give them as much freedom as you dare… and then a little more.