What is more important than your mission and vision? Your leadership purpose.
I have been reflecting on purpose lately. What is purpose? What is Crestcom’s purpose? What is my purpose?
Purpose is our directional magnet and life fuel. It is a scale, a life balance, requiring hard work and challenge. It is reward and fullness as we achieve steps toward fulfilling our purpose. It is aspirational, and it is frustrating. And it is worthiness. To have our passions become our purpose and our profession is Nirvana.
Harvard Business Review defines leadership purpose as “Who you are and what makes you distinctive… It’s not what you do, it’s how you do your job and why—the strengths and passions you bring to the table no matter where you’re seated.”
Many leaders get so wrapped up in the organization’s purpose that we don’t think about defining our own leadership purpose. As a result, we can fall into a trap of working hard and putting in many hours while feeling unfulfilled in what we do.
Your leadership purpose is also the thing that pulls you and, by extension, your team through tough times. It acts as your due north that will keep you oriented through the chaos and distractions so that you can enjoy the journey. Communicating your leadership purpose, along with your organization’s purpose, to your team helps them understand the why of your leadership style and puts their own tasks and goals into perspective. Perhaps it will also make them think about their own purpose and how it aligns with your organization’s purpose.
Defining your own leadership purpose is not always easy. It will begin with a broad idea, which you can then distill down to a targeted, impactful leadership purpose statement.
Step 1: What are your personal values?
What is it that you are truly passionate about? What would you do with your time if money was not a factor? Some people like to think of this as what they were passionate about when they were young, before adulthood took over their life. This may or may not apply to you, but your values have typically been with you from a young age. It’s not just about what you wanted to do with your life or what you “wanted to be when you grew up”, but what you have always been interested in and passion about.
Step 2: What do you want to accomplish in your life?
Think about the impact that you want to make in your life. This does not have to be grandiose. There is nothing wrong with valuing time and connection with your family over something like landing humans safely on Mars. This is YOUR purpose. It needs to define what you want to accomplish in your life.
Step 3: Write it all down
This is potentially the easiest step. Don’t think about whether your ideas are defined well enough. Certainly don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just get your thoughts out of your head on onto paper (or on the screen). Don’t just stop after a minute or two when you can’t think of anything else to write. Give yourself at least 20 minutes and really push yourself to explore your values and aspirations deeply.
Writers call this free writing and it is a great exercise to help you further develop your thoughts and ideas so you can start formalizing your leadership purpose statement.
Step 4: Refine your leadership purpose statement
This is potentially the most difficult step! Depending on how you operate, this step may be best done directly after you have completed your free writing exercise and you are still in the mindframe, or perhaps leave it and come back to it the next day when you’re a bit more fresh.
In this step, you need to distill and refine your leadership purpose statement down to just one sentence. It needs to be simple, clear, and action-oriented. Perhaps most importantly, it needs to define you as a person and as a leader.
Step 5: Share it
Once you have completed your leadership purpose statement, share it with friends, family, and colleagues who know you best and whose opinions you respect. Ask them to provide you with their thoughts and feedback. From their perspective, does this statement really define you as a person?
Again, this is YOUR leadership purpose, so don’t feel like you need to take all of their comments and suggestions into account if you feel like they do not align with your purpose. But it is a helpful exercise to help see your style from other’s perspectives—do they see this statement as defining how you lead?
You may or may not decide to make adjustments to your leadership purpose statement after this step.
Step 6: Put your leadership purpose in action
What is the point of this exercise? Certainly not to write a statement and then pin it to your wall or keep it in your desk. You need to put it in action and live it—to fulfill it.
Your Leadership Purpose in Action
Your leadership purpose will manifest itself in different ways depending on what your purpose is. My leadership purpose has led me to become the CEO of Crestcom, an international leadership development organization. I am passionate about growing better leaders around the world. This inspired me to update Crestcom’s purpose statement: Make the world a better place by developing stronger, more ethical leaders across the globe.
When I am talking with our clients and hear how their leadership development experiences have changed their personal and professional lives—and have made an impact on the organizations they lead—I feel truly fulfilled. No matter how stressed or tired I may feel, it fills my cup knowing that my leadership purpose and Crestcom’s purpose are being fulfilled as well.
I recently traveled to participate in the graduation of Trinidad and Tobago’s Police Service from our leadership development program. The graduates had learned so much from the program, from realizing that they are truly a customer service organization and developing their vision around that, to learning how to communicate and negotiate better, and improve their business acumen skills which improved processes and reduced wasted time and money. Everyone who graduated had the opportunity to speak in front of the group and discuss how their leadership training had improved their lives.
The impact of this experience grounded me back in my leadership purpose and Crestcom’s purpose. It got me to thinking, what would our world really be like if all leaders were more ethical, empathetic, communicative, and passionate?