Think of a leader who believes they can make a difference and devotes their time and energy to make it happen. Does this sound like you?
If not, you have growth work to do. In my experience, working with thousands of leaders, the process of defining your purpose and finding the commitment to live it is the single most important developmental task you can undertake. The good news is that discovering your purpose is what you are built to do. Most of us are born with tremendous potential and growth is a natural, inherent progression, accessible to everyone. It does however require a conscious choice and the discipline to learn new, expansive behavior patterns and beliefs. I won’t pretend it is an easy quest, but it is enormously rewarding. And it will equip you to build, rebuild and start up new ventures with formidable clarity and commitment.
The Pandemic has provided a global reckoning, a monumental moment of truth and an opportunity for reflection about what matters. Any leader who has not positively shifted their perspective in the last year, has missed a radical opening for growth. Fortunately, we can instantaneously become worthier leaders by simply deciding to find out what we expect of ourselves.
Only about 1 in 5 leaders have a strong sense of their own purpose and during the Pandemic many coaching, and forum conversations highlighted how stress and exhaustion deplete creativity and a desire to contribute. It’s challenging to retain passion when survival needs are heightened and lingering. Post pandemic, it is likely that reconnecting with purpose will generate strong interest for forums and executives.
People want to be led by leaders who have a clear calling. These are the leaders who are driven to improve because they want to solve an unmet need, to benefit others. Your calling or purpose does not need to be grandiose; only meaningful and actionable. It reflects your essence and identity – how you use your core strengths to improve the well-being of others. Everyone, including you, benefits from this commitment.
When do you most feel alive?
There will be clues in your life story that will assist you to discover your purpose. During a lockdown declutter I came across a big lead written in a diary entry, when I was 16, on a school retreat:
Smiling stars above me and crunchy leaves below me. I was wildly ecstatic, and thrills ran up and down my spine. I knew why I had been placed on this earth. I realized all that was in me. Joy. I knew. I knew.
My body remembers the feeling of exhilaration. It’s true I was exhausted after a mountain hike and there was too much talking instead of sleeping. And yet, I know not to dismiss it as an adolescent, bad poetry moment.
I was in nature with a group of young peers. We were gathered to transition into leadership roles and our meeting explored big questions about life and ourselves. At a deep, core level, I felt unity with the topics and everyone in the group. I adore that feeling. My strong response stems from a longing, the absence of a sense of fully belonging in my childhood. I have repeatedly noticed that what gives us purpose frequently comes from our painful experiences.
What do you really care about?
Fifty years later and similar activities inspire me. My dream workday is in nature with a group of leaders, facilitating a meaningful conversation designed to deepen awareness, strengthen bonds, and increase impact. It is my calling – coaching leaders to fully deliver on their potential to positively impact others. Occasionally, when working, I do have thrills run up and down my spine!
I accidentally brushed up against my purpose when I was young, but I had no idea what it could mean for my career. I just knew what made me feel alive. Last year in long term Lockdown, I reflected on my life, walking, and sitting in nature. I looked for clues in my story so I could feel more confident that I was living my life on purpose. I thought long and hard about answers to important, strategic questions. I wanted to better understand what life was expecting of me and what I needed from the rest of my life, as like most of us, I have taken wrong turns and distracting detours. The post Pandemic world offers us all a chance to lead with a new love of life, embracing its incredible possibilities. And the freedom to give voice to our own music.
Ask yourself these questions
- What were you drawn to when you were young?
- What makes you feel alive?
- Who inspires you?
- Is there a link between the hardships you have experienced and what matters to you?
- What is a problem that intrigues you and matches your skills?
- Who do you want to serve?
- Are you leading the life you want or what is expected of you?
- What would you be prepared to focus on over time?
- Why do you do what you do?
- How can you adjust your current role to connect more strongly with your purpose?
As we emerge into the post-pandemic world, we will face many challenges ranging from tight economic conditions to hybrid workplace practices. Purpose is one of the best adaption tools, as it a wellspring of creative, uplifting energy that excites others. We shift to focus on not what we do but what we do it for. Tapping into our purpose helps us become whole-hearted and gives us a constant guide to our chosen destiny.
Leading with purpose when circumstances are changing is the best gift you can give to the people you lead and care about. And finding out what is true for you and leading accordingly will fuel and fulfill your quest for excellence. You are the only instrument that can play the meaningful music inside of you, to inspire and support others.