A key habit of any true leader is to have a clear “end in mind,” a vision or mission that inspires and energizes people. It also means having a clear purpose in mind for everything true leaders do—initiatives, projects, meetings. It’s based on the simple principle of knowing one’s destination early; even if one fall short, there is movement in the right direction.
Some people say, “All the talk about vision is just drivel.” However, everything made by humans is the result of a vision, from a potato peeler to the Mona Lisa. It’s designed in the mind first. Ironically, we know how to design potato peelers, but we’re not very good at designing a life. By just taking things as they come, we go at the most important things in life without much vision.
How often do we hear (and sometimes say), “They don’t know what they’re doing —this organization is drifting—does anybody know where we’re headed?”
These questions seems obvious: “What is that the organization is trying accomplish? How will we measure success?”
Most seem to understand the power of purpose for an organization, a project, or a product, but fail to see the same need for themselves. It’s remarkable how people ask these questions about the organization, and point to leaders who fail to cast a vision, but fall into the same trap when it comes to leading themselves.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your personal end in mind:
- What is my own personal mission?
- What should I contribute here?
- What kind of a difference do I want to make?
- What will I remember about my work here?
- How will people remember me—or will they remember me at all?”
“The human race is filled with passion,” Mr. Keating said to the boys in movie the Dead Poets Society. “What do we stay alive for?” He then asks, as did the great Walt Whitman, “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
What a wonderful and appropriate question for each of us to consider. What will our individual “verses” be? How will we make our contributions to the world?
Creating—or better said, discovering—your personal mission is a difficult but very powerful process. It will help bring clarity to the things you value, and will help define how you spend your time and the contributions you will make. It will bring a greater sense of meaning to your work. You’ll be able to help your team craft its mission. You might even influence your organization’s mission.
Here’s a tool to get you started on the discovery process.
I wish you all of the best as you work to discover (or rediscover) your purpose.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a sought after writer, speaker, and global leadership consultant. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.