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Clarifying Your Personal Mission

We hear it all the time these days: Position alone doesn’t make you a good leader. However, once we cover that little point of fact, it gets less clear. So, what does make you a good leader? Here are 25 of the top traits generally accepted as intrinsic to high-impact and influential leadership:

1. Authentic

2. Innovative

3. Transparent

4. Active Listener

5. Self-Confident

6. Visionary

7. Effective Communication

8. Able to Delegate Effectively

9. Decisive

10. Solution Oriented

11. Fair

12. Curious

13. Self-motivated

14. Adaptable

15. Compassionate

16. Self-Disciplined

17. Emotionally Intelligent

18. Passionate

19. Resilient

20. Accountable

21. Supportive

22. Empathetic

23. Agile Learner

24. Empowering

Overwhelming? It can be. And many people refuse to accept a leadership position for that reason. Others try to bluster their way through it (yep, that was me at age 30!), and have high turnover in their teams as a result. Happily, if a leadership role lands in your lap, you don’t have to hide from it, or fake it. What you need is to do the work to clarify your personal mission. Sound too “soft”? You’d be surprised how hard-hitting this work really is.

Building your leadership right does take a little time. And yet, when you start at the beginning – your mission – your leadership is far more effective, far faster. In fact, you can build a very strong leadership foundation for yourself over a 10-week period. Ten weeks is manageable. Unless your organization is in the midst of a major crisis, you can afford to build your leadership over less than three months, for 10X impact.

Not coincidentally, your personal mission is the first step to helping build your own personal brand as well (yes, that thing every leader needs in spades). It also has the added benefit of aligning your team with your goals out of the gate as well.

Begin Your Mission-Building with a Little Reflection:

Leadership is about more than just managing human resources. If you want to be successful at leading others, you have to first master the art of leading yourself.

- Phil Owens, corporate behaviorist

Creating an environment of success and communicating purpose to others requires first understanding yourself and what motivates you. Sadly, many of us only skim the surface, thinking we are motivated by money and achievement, status and influence. While those external rewards are all well and good, what fulfills us, research shows, are the internal drivers, such as belonging, connection, safety, a sense of meaning and making a difference.

When you know what YOU want to accomplish, and why, you can communicate purpose and values to those you lead, so they embrace team goals.

To gain insight into what you truly want to achieve from your inner drivers, ponder what your life might look like 10 or 20 years down the road. The desire for significance in life is universal - and critical to achieving your goals over the long term.

Defining what brings significance to your life will help you focus on ways you can achieve your life purpose. Answer a few questions to help you determine your personal mission as the first step toward cultivating effective leadership.

If you would like some powerful prompts in this area, try the Discover Your Purpose Workbook and the Personal Values Workbook.

Put Your Ideas Into Meaningful Action:

A personal mission statement is a helpful result of all this inner reflection. It can be equated to a purpose statement, although there are some minor differences. A purpose statement is why you do what you do. A mission statement is what you are here to do. Don’t get too caught up in the nuances of those differences, however.

Instead, just remember this: A mission statement is not a list of specific goals or tasks. It’s broader than that. It’s a philosophy of life that guides your planning and goal setting.

Often an example is worth a thousand words. So, to that end, here are two examples of mission statements, one work-related and one related to family:

  • Use my skills and position to be a source of emotional, social, and financial good in this company.

  • Parent my children to become responsible, independent, and empathetic adults.

It’s okay to create just one statement, or you can create two, one that’s work-related and one for your personal life. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect (I know several perfectionists who are reading this – yes you!) You can alter or refine them anytime.

Take a few minutes right now. Step away from everyday pressures and write answers to the questions below.

Use these questions to help you craft your personal mission statement:

  1. What motivates you? What brings you the greatest joy or satisfaction?

  2. What does success look like to you?

  3. What unique role(s) are you able to fulfill in people’s lives?

Now write out your personal mission statement. If you took the time to answer those questions sincerely and thoroughly, you are ready. It takes time to refine and explore, and yet, don't wait to begin until you are 100% certain. Let your first draft be a bit of a mess. That will lead you to the next draft and the next far faster than trying to get it perfect in your head.

My personal mission:

Once you’ve stated it clearly, ask yourself: Am I bringing my personal mission to bear in all areas of my life? How can I use my personal mission statement to motivate and inspire others?

Next week we’ll work on clarifying personal goals that spring out of your mission.

If you believe your leadership team would benefit from this work, let’s discuss creating an Unstoppable Leadership Workshop tailored to their needs.


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