What is your purpose – in life, at work, and most importantly as a leader? These are questions that many of us never think about but having a clear sense of purpose is essential for strong leadership. How can you inspire others towards a vision, if you don’t know how you connect to that vision yourself? Leaders need a sense of purpose and just as importantly, they need to know how to articulate that purpose.
“Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose.” Myles Munroe
Importance of Having Purpose
Having a clear sense of your purpose helps you to navigate many of the challenges that will come your way as a leader. Purpose provides you focus on how you want to contribute to the world. It directs you to the environments and communities where your contributions will be meaningful to you and appreciated by others.
Your purpose serves as a guide when making decisions and choosing which paths to pursue. When your purpose is clear, it acts like a compass. The better you understand your purpose, the easier it is to identify priorities and work towards your goals. This knowledge and focus provide an inner confidence boost as you know who you are and what your approach is to life and leadership.
Roadblocks to Purpose
Many times, we fall into certain positions or certain companies, without having a clear purpose. If you are only concentrating on the benefits – the salary, the location, or simply being employed – you may miss the mark on your purpose for meaningful work. This can lead you to:
- Feel under-utilized or under-challenged
- Lack a desire for learning new things
- Feel tired and uninterested in your work
- Complete tasks slowly
- Let the quality of your work slide
- Pretend to be busy to maintain a status of low effort
What’s worse, is that you may only be vaguely aware that you are creating these roadblocks. It could be that you once had a vision for your position, but people and companies change over time. Maybe you’ve outgrown your previous purpose and you need to take steps to rediscover or newly discover your next purpose. Whatever the reason for the roadblocks, there are ways to overcome them.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” Patanjali
Strategies for Developing a Sense of Purpose
If you are unclear about your purpose, here are some strategies that can help you define and articulate your purpose.
Know what motivates you. Identify the things that excite you, things that bring out your passion. What are the tasks that seem effortless or that you enjoy doing? These can provide you some direction on what is important to you. What makes your work meaningful? Why do you want to be a leader and serve others?
Analyze your personal goals and match them to the company. Once you know what motivates you, think about what motivates the company. Does your motivation fit into the company values, goals and vision? If not, consider looking for a company where your purpose can support that of the company.
Discover ways you can help make your company better. Once your purpose and the company purpose match, think about how your purpose can enhance the company. What are the things you bring to the table that will allow you to meaningfully contribute?
Create personal leadership performance metrics. Think about where you want your purpose to lead you and establish milestones or progress points to keep you on track. It is easy to experience purpose drift due to competing priorities. Stay tuned in to how you are achieving your purpose and plan some rewards for yourself along the way.
Write it down. Write down your purpose and the values and metrics that support it. Post it somewhere so you can see it every day. Use your purpose to help drive you towards your goals.
Mentor, coach, and help others. Use your own purpose to demonstrate how it directs your work and help them discover their own purpose. Learn to put your purpose into a leadership mission statement that you can talk about and discuss with those wanting to learn from you.
“Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths, and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.” Steve Maraboli
The Leaders Role in Promoting Purpose
Once you have your clearly defined purpose that aligns with the company’s vision, you need to convey this sense of purpose to your employees. Leaders must inspire others and motivate them to carry out the company’s vision. This is done by helping employees feel purposeful in their work. Having a clear understanding of how one’s work contributes to the larger vision, and feeling supported in the work ones does, all help connect the dots between the importance of work and the desired end result.
Another thing that leaders can do to create a purposeful environment is provide ongoing training and development opportunities for everyone at every level. Creating a learning environment leads to more creative and innovative thinking. This allows the employee to take more ownership in the company vision by having a sense that they can contribute by bringing new ideas and fresh perspective.
Perspective can also be helpful when employees are struggling to connect to their own sense of purpose. By providing opportunities for employees to engage with others who have a stronger sense of purpose, leaders can facilitate the clarification of purpose. Engagement opportunities can be offered through collaborative efforts and mentoring.
Putting It All Together
One of the hidden roles of leadership is having a strong sense of purpose in your own role, knowing how your purpose furthers the company vision, and knowing how to inspire a sense of purpose in those you lead. Think about the roadblocks to purpose. These are signs to watch for with your employees and things to ask them about. This will help you identify those that need you to guide them towards a purpose
Keep in mind that your purpose can change over time. Take time to reflect on what you are doing and if it still resonates with the person you want to be. Over the years it is common for our interests, perspective, and priorities to shift. Life has many paths, with curves and forks and dead ends and intersections. It may be your life purpose, your work purpose, your leadership purpose, or some combination of the three that changes based on how you experience your personal path.
That is okay. What is importance is that leaders ensure they of have a clear sense of purpose and can lead others to understanding and supporting that purpose.