Define your purpose
This, admittedly, is a tough one. Most leaders go their whole lives without articulating their own purpose statement. They spend endless hours discussing the purpose statement of the organization but no time at all on their own.
What do you want to achieve? Why do you exist? What are you here to do? Why does it matter? How does your purpose draw on the things you believe in and your view of the world? These are the questions you should be asking yourself. When you have, then write it down. The power of a statement like this gives you focus, direction and a sense of accountability to yourself about achieving your goals. It can guide your every action.
Mine? I hear you ask.
‘I believe in leadership. I believe that in the modern working environment, leadership has been undervalued, over-criticized and underappreciated. Yet great leaders can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Great leaders can make great places to work, they can help organizations grow and prosper, and they can alter the destiny of our lives. Great leaders can secure the wealth of nations and make a positive difference to many thousands of people. We need to encourage and liberate the responsible and inspiring leader in everyone.
Because of this belief, I have made it my mission to make leaders more effective by making them better, more inspiring communicators. I do this by one-to-one coaching, by training, by strategic consulting and by writing books that can help leaders everywhere. By doing this, I hope that I can make a significant difference to many thousands of people, not just the leaders I can make more inspiring but also the many more followers of the leaders I help.
Every person who is or aspires to be a leader has it in them to be a leader. They simply need to learn about what it means to be inspiring, and abandon their preconceptions about inspirational leadership.’
Can you put your purpose to words?
Define your values
Your values inform your thoughts, feelings and actions, whether you are conscious of them or not. When you surface your values and give them the power of clear articulation, they can give you greater consistency, clarity and focus. They help you to understand what is truly important to you. They allow you to be more consistent because, by following them, you will be more consistently you.
I believe that the value of values is enormous. Values are at the centre of authentic leadership. Taking time to give them clear expression will benefit every leader. Who you are and what you stand for are just as important as what you do.
A good way of starting to define your values is to find some quiet time and think about the things that inspire you. Why do they? What is it about them that lifts your spirits and makes you want to achieve more? What are the causes you believe in? Why? What does all this say about the things you believe important in life?
There are many sites online you can visit to find prompts that will enable you to identify your values. Just type in ‘Defining your values’ for example, and see what Google brings up. These sites will give you lists of words such as ‘accountability’, ‘growth’, ‘service’, ‘respect’, ‘usefulness’ or ‘vitality’. You have to look deep inside yourself and write down all the values you believe you live your life by.
Once you’ve done that, rate them on a scale of 0 to 10 in terms of how important they are to you. Focus on the top 10. Give them powerful expression. Then ask yourself whether they really are important values to you and whether they make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud enough of them to talk about them in public and would you be comfortable sharing them with people you respect and admire? Would you stand up for them even in situations where you found that your values were at odds with the majority in a room?
Once you have identified these values you will be able to use them in any situation to make the best choice, especially when you have no data to help support you. Very often some of the toughest things you have to decide are really about what you value most.
By way of example, four of my 10 most important values are respect, listening, curiosity and storytelling. I believe that everybody deserves my respect. I believe that I should always give people a damn good listening to. I believe that curiosity feeds my soul and prepares my mind for opportunities. I believe that there is a story in everything, that everybody loves a story, and that stories can move people to change.
These values have always stood me in good stead and I would hope that anyone who knows me will recognize that they are part of my character. I hold myself strictly to these beliefs and regularly berate myself when I fall short of delivering against them. If I do not look a waiter in the eye and thank him or her for the service they provided me, I have fallen short of one of my values. If I don’t try to understand someone before inflicting my point of view on them, I have sold them and myself short. If I fail to ask the important questions that could uncover truths that matter, I have shirked my responsibility. If I try to present my arguments without using a good story, I am in danger of boring people and not holding their interest. By measuring myself so strictly against my values, I establish a strong connection between them and my behaviours.
These values bring enormous benefits to me in both my personal and professional life. And, as you can see, I have the potential to talk about them for hours.
The most important thing to remember about values is this: true values are simply profound beliefs in action.
What are yours?