Leadership and Purpose
Happy New Year!
I want to start with these words for this new year, “Who you are is how you lead.”
You are now asking, “what does that mean?” Let’s think of this way. How often have you heard someone say about a person who is happy, joy filled, clicking on all cylinders, “She was born to do this” or “He was born to do that.” Those words are often spoken about persons who are being who they were created to be. They have a purpose in who they are and how they live, work, and play.
Focus on Your Purpose
As you step into this new year, you have the opportunity to focus upon your purpose for living, loving, and leading. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your purpose as a leader? As a parent? Or as a colleague? As a human being?
Your purpose grows out of the essence of who you are. It is the natural flow of your strengths and talents as they are related to the people you serve and to the context in which you are living and working. Too often people inhibit or ignore this flow, but it is always there. It is what you do because it is who you are. How it gets lived out depends on your ability to recognize it, claim it, and live into it.
What is Your Purpose?
Contrary to what some people think, your purpose is not a list of accomplishments, education, experience, and skills you have gathered in your life. It is not a professional title, limited to your current job or assignment. Each of these things are important and might assist you in living out your purpose, but none of these things define who you are.
Your purpose is who you were created to be. Paul came close to defining purpose in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote, “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives” (Ephesians 2:10 CEB). You have been created for a purpose.
In her book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy Sherman writes that purpose in leadership is significantly related to leader effectiveness. She points out that purpose is found in the center of God’s priorities, personal gifts and passions, and the world’s needs.
What is a Leader’s Purpose?
With that in mind and using Brene Brown’s definition of leadership, your purpose, as a leader, is about taking responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and processes and then developing that potential. Living out your purpose and how it relates to the people you serve transforms the world.
My purpose is to assist you in becoming the person you are created to be. Whether you are a leader, parent, preacher, or pastor, I find great joy and satisfaction is assisting you to use your strengths and talents in the context in which you are living and working.
So, what is your purpose? I know someone, because of who he is, naturally finds ways to affirm and encourage the people around him. He actively engages in ways to help people live into their potential. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, he bought coffee mugs, with these words “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” on the mugs and gave them out to the people whom he supervises. I am sure he was not trying to make a statement but was naturally offering himself in helping the people around him live into their full potential.
So, what is your purpose?
How are you living your purpose in relationship to the people around you and the context in which you live and work. Here are five reasons your purpose helps you become the leader you are created to be.
Many of us talk of what we do as our calling, as our vocation. What does that mean to you? Are you called to an institution, a business, a particular way of life, or to being who you are created to be? These examples are not mutually exclusive, but it matters where you start.
So, what if you lived your life, related to people, and led from being who you are created to be? Would your life, relationships, work be more creative, more satisfying, more impactful? When you pursue your work with purpose it becomes a reservoir of energy, joy, and well-being that keeps you moving forward when facing challenges and adversity.
Your purpose empowers you to strive for something bigger than yourself. It is not about a position in a hierarchy or about having power over people. It is about sharing and giving power to others. Just as your purpose is being who you were created to be, you assist others in becoming who they were created to be. In this way, purpose is bigger than you. It includes the people entrusted to your card.
Purpose makes you courageous and resilient.
It energizes you to take risks by facing your challenges and fears with stability and hope. It calls you to grow and to be more vulnerable, more courageous, and more resilient than you thought was possible. The ability to take risks is a key to effective leadership. It is required to lead into and through any situation. Having a bigger purpose is what motivates you to put yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Purpose helps you engage others.
When you live into your purpose and assist others to live into their purpose, you build engagement. People go the extra mile because their hearts, as well as their minds, are engaged. Effective leaders inspire action through a contagious sense of purpose.
Purpose helps you navigate obstacles and uncertainty.
Your purpose allows you to be decisive and courageous and empathic and hopeful in service of a bigger cause. When you are living out of your purpose, you make a unique impact upon the lives of the people around you. You contribute to making the world better. It shows up in your decisions, how you face challenges, how you relate to others. However it shows up, when you identify your purpose, you are energized, and you are able to lead through whatever obstacles and uncertainty you face.
Your Next Steps
So, as you step into this new year, here is what you do. Set aside 10 minutes to answer these questions and to do the following:
Answer these questions: What brings you joy in life? What do you enjoy doing that helps you come alive? What are the experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life?
Purpose comes from your heart, your intuition, and from your emotions. It moves you because you are one with who God created you to be, one with yourself, and one with the people around you.
You might have to take extra time to truly answer this question. But when you come to an understanding of your purpose, you will be blessed beyond measure.
Take notes on your reflection. Make mental notes if you don’t write them down.
What are those experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life? Reflect upon the common themes. What are you doing? Who are you being? What strengths are you exercising? What do people seek you out for? What are the challenges you have faced? What inner resources have you developed to overcome those challenges? Who are you drawn to help?
What leadership legacy do you want to leave? What lasting impact do you want to make? In your family? In your work? In your life?
Reflect on and seriously consider what the ideal world would look like if you were in charge? How do you want your contributions to be remembered? A leader with purpose makes a world changing impact when he/she leads out of their purpose.
For me, a perfect world is where everyone is becoming who God created them to be in their relationships with one another. It is your sense of purpose that moves you from being a transactional leader to a transformational leader.
Now find a trusted friend or colleague and share with them your work. Invite them on the journey with you so you can become more the leader you have been created to be.
Wow! That seems like a lot at the beginning of the year. But, wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life? It starts with becoming who you are created to be. The question is, what is your purpose? Only you know the answer.
Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.
Check out our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.
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