Too much to do and not enough time. This is the biggest challenge facing leaders today. Leaders find that there are many good things to do, it’s difficult to decide where to focus, what gets done and what gets left undone. Here’s a way to cut through the noise and keep focused on what matters.
Dan Pink’s book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” explores an interesting story about Clare Boothe Luce, playwright, journalist and Member of Congress. In 1962 Clare met with President John F. Kennedy who at that time was consumed with pursuing an ambitious agenda domestically and internationally. Visiting Kennedy early in his presidency, Clare was concerned that he may be in danger of attempting to do too much and losing his focus. Luce advised him that “a great man is a sentence“, she challenged Kennedy to think about what his sentence would be. What his legacy would be and how he would be remembered. Dan Pink provides an example one sentence for president Lincoln: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”
The Benefits of a Single Sentence
Dan Pink, building on Clare’s idea that “a great man is a sentence, suggests that we ask ourselves “what is my sentence?“. In other words “what is your legacy?” expressed in a single, simple, elegant sentence.
Just as it was important for Kennedy to tune into the legacy he wanted to leave, you and I have the same challenge today. The need to gain clarity as to the legacy we want to leave and what we need to do to work towards making that the focus of our efforts.
This exercise challenges you to distill your legacy and purpose into a single sentence. All successful leaders have a clear and compelling sense of purpose. Leaders figure out what they care about and worked hard at making it happen. They focus on one overarching purpose.
“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” – Tom Rath
We all regularly fall into the trap of of trying to do too much, seeking to do too many things and trying to please too many people. With a clear and compelling sentence you’re better able to set priorities and focus on what matters. A single sentence is easy to remember and helps to focus on those activities that move your life and business forward.
What’s Your Sentence?
So, what’s your sentence? Do you have a single sentence the distills your purpose to it’s core – a single sentence that sums up what you’re all about?
My personal sentence is “He helped develop leaders and unlock the potential in others.
What one sentence would define your legacy?
Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.