Most people have no trouble seeing that it would be foolish to try to run any organization today without a sense of purpose and direction (mission), a set of clearly defined goals and objectives (vision) and a thoughtful plan for getting there (strategy).
These are important because all organizations are resource constrained and therefore MUST make choices about how they will invest resources in ways that maximize organizational performance, and move it toward established goals.
If we all see that it is VITAL for organizations to have a Mission, Vision and Strategy, then why don’t we think it is EQUALLY vital to have all of these things for ourselves? We too, have limited resources, must make choices in life, and presumably have a vested interest in our own personal success – no matter how we define it.
If I asked a group of program participants whether it is OK if a firm’s strategy, vision, mission, and business plan be informal (only in the head of the CEO), no one would think that it is a good idea. Apart from the need to communicate plans, people would also likely state things like.
- Until you put all these pieces together can you determine if could work (a vision and strategy with insufficient resources, for example, are unlikely to be achieved)
- The act of thinking through what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there is not easy. The act of writing it down forces us to think harder and makes the ideas much more real.
Yet, I know very few people who have taken the steps of writing these things down for themselves, or that many who have engaged in the process of thinking it trough. I am not sure why this is so. Aren’t we, our spouses, and our families at least as important as our professional obligations? How can we, like our organizations, be anything but adrift in life without a clear set of goals and a plan and a sense of clear priorities and values?
Why does this matter?
In my mind, I see four compelling reasons why having a personal leadership plan is valuable.
1) You Can’t Achieve Something Without First Imagining It.
We can go through life being carried along by the current (even a dead fish flows downstream), or we can deliberately choose to paddle towards something that matters to us. What a pity it would be to go through life only accepting what comes along without ever trying to achieve something we feel is important. Yet if I ask people what their life goals or objectives are, I seldom find people can answer that question.
Vince Young, NFL football star (and former Texas Longhorn) faced many hardships based on how he grew up in the midst of drugs, crime and horrible street violence. Somehow he overcame that to become an amazing football star with a promising career. He said at our church one Sunday what he learned from his experiences is this: “Life’s not hard”, he said, “it’s just about making a series of decisions. Every time you face one, all you need to know is one thing . . . where it is you are heading.” Amen to that I say. A clear sense of purpose and direction matters EVERYWHERE.
2) You will Face Ethical Dilemmas
Virtually every one of us faces ethical dilemmas along the way. Sometimes people in our organizations act in a way that violates customer interests, human rights, or even the law. Yet how often have you seen someone sit quietly by when these things happen? When will you raise your hand and speak up? When will you tell the truth to those in power? At what point would you disobey your boss? Is there a line over which you would not cross even if it meant resigning?
It is one thing to say we value honesty or integrity until we are prepared to act on them. When we are challenged ethically, it puts our values to the test. I believe it is worth the effort to think about where your boundaries are . . . where the lines are that you would not cross.
3) You Will Face Life Crises
It is not a question of if, but when. Since most of us are not blessed with prescience, it is hard to prepare, but whether you face a health scare, job loss, failure of your business, acts of violence, or the death of a loved one – to mention a few – you will be tested.
Yes, we all will face “crucible moments” during our lives when we are caught in the intensity of a bubbling caldron of turmoil that will ultimate forge us into a new person when we emerge. In my experience, these moments always cause us to reassess our inner values, core beliefs, goals and priorities. The stronger we are connected to these, the better we are at navigating life challenges.
4) When You Know Who You Are, You Project Authenticity
When you don’t know who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re heading, your employees see this as erratic and a sign of un-dependability. If you want your employees’ commitment to you, you need to project a consistency of purpose – a continuous harmony between word and deed. When you are in tune with your values, beliefs and purpose, decisions become easier, you almost instinctively know what feels “right” much of the time. When you are operating in this space, they will see you as authentic and this builds trust. Employees are more likely to engage with you when they see you as worthy of their trust and respect.
So, let’s start to take charge of our lives – no matter how old we are – and begin to apply the concepts we teach to every organization whether military, for-profit, non-profit, mission-based or market driven. We owe that to ourselves. Don’t we?
In Part 2 of this series, “Developing Your Personal Leadership Statement”, I will present one methodology that can be used for you to embark on this journey.