It was the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche who observed that “he who has a why can endure any how”. Leaders who know their why are better able to navigate and achieve success in the fast changing and uncertain world of today.
Consider some of the leaders of the past who persevered in the face of difficult circumstances. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jnr. and so many others. These leaders connected to a purpose that matter to them. For Nelson Mandela it was the liberation of the people of South Africa. For Winston Churchill it was to prevent Hitler from conquering the world. The reason we remember these leaders was their commitment to a bold purpose. It’s this courage and commitment to a purpose that inspires us still today.
Whilst great leaders of times past were purpose driven, it may surprise to know that many leaders today lack clarity of purpose. Research cited in the article “From Purpose to Impact” by Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook, published in the Harvard Business Review found:
“that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement.”
Whilst leaders can identify the pain and problems that keep them up at night. Very few are able to tell you what makes them get out of bed in the morning!
What is Purpose?
Purpose is what inspires you to get up in the morning. Purpose is the expression of what gives your life meaning. Purpose is a leaders answer to the question “why do I exist?”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines purpose as “the reason why something is done or used” or “the aim or intention of something”. Purpose then is concerned with your reason for living your life in a certain way. Purpose is about living your life with a specific aim or intention.
Nick Craig and Scott Snook in their article “From Purpose to Impact” describe leadership purpose as follows:
“your leadership purpose is who you are and what makes you distinctive”
Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook go on to say that “at its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are” and when thinking about purpose:
“it’s not what you do, it’s how you do your job and why—the strengths and passions you bring to the table no matter where you’re seated. Although you may express your purpose in different ways in different contexts, it’s what everyone close to you recognizes as uniquely you and would miss most if you were gone.“
Purpose is the intentional expression of who you are, what makes you unique and the contribution you make to the world. Leading on purpose is about leading with a specific aim or intention.
- Without purpose leaders drift aimlessly from one bright shiny thing to another.
- Without purpose leaders lack the courage to act, to step out their comfort zone.
- Without purpose leaders lack the passion to persevere in the face of obstacles.
As the great leaders of time past demonstrated purpose matters. Great leadership begins with great purpose.
- Are you leading with purpose?
- Do you have clarity as to your purpose?
- Have you written it down?
- Do you live it daily?