When my daughter was getting ready to go to college, my husband gave her Cal Newport’s book, How To Win At College, to read. Among other things, it gives the future college student real world tips on what the top students do to succeed on campus. It includes advice on study habits, party habits, resume building and more.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book is that our daughter actually read it. I was reminded of this fact two weeks ago when she graduated from college with great grades, an impressive resume and an excellent first job. She figured out how to win at college.
So similarly, I want to offer you some ways to help you be successful in developing and acting on your purpose for leadership. I want to share with you what I have observed in teaching personal purpose to a large number of leaders. Today, I will share four ways to test your purpose and ensure it impacts your leadership in a powerful way. I want you to win at the process of creating your personal purpose.
Authenticity Test – The first test of your purpose is to determine if it is genuinely yours. A purpose that just sounds good, but is not authentically your passionate purpose, will be mere words on a piece of paper. To test your purpose, find a person who knows you well and tell them your lifeline, your values, and your purpose and principles for leadership. Ask them if they ring true to who you are. Is this the purpose and principles that they see at work in your life? Is it the authentic you?
Others Test – The primary mistake that I see people make in this process is that they only think about themselves. A purpose that is only about you may motivate you, but only you. As a leader, ask yourself: “If I lead like this, will the people I lead be better off?”
Leadership is about how you lead others. If your purpose and principles is only about you, revise it. Only then can you lead for the benefit of the people entrusted to your care. Only then will you have followers.
“This, then, is the test we must set for ourselves; not to march alone but to march in such a way that others will wish to join us.”~ Hubert H. Humphrey
Action Test – Last week, I wrote about the importance of turning your purpose into an action plan that changes the activities on your calendar. Did you act on that suggestion? If not, ask yourself: “Now that I have this statement of purpose, what exactly will I do differently to make my purpose evident to those I lead?”
Determine at least three specific action steps you will take as a result of crafting your purpose and principles. If you are struggling to turn it into action, go back and edit it to be so clear and specific about your purpose that it will drive you to take specific action steps.
“Happiness comes when we test our skills towards some meaningful purpose.”
100 Day Test – As with every goal we set, time is the best test of our commitment. Did we get excited about something and act on it for a week or two? Or has the change in our focus been more meaningful and long lasting?
Once you have drafted your purpose statement and action plan, put it to work for 100 days. Then stop and reflect on your purpose and principles. Is it accurate? Does it need an edit or two? Is it impacting the lives of those you lead in a compelling way? If your purpose is aimed at creating the legacy of your leadership, put it to the test every 100 days.
Finding your meaningful personal purpose is a journey. Don’t be discouraged if your first draft doesn’t change your life, or the world. An initial false start can cause you to reflect deeper on what matters most. And with more reflection, over time, you will draw closer to the passionate purpose that you want to be a signature of your leadership.
In fact, if you take this seriously, you’ll probably edit your purpose several times in the years to come, as you gain clarity about where you can make the most meaningful difference for those you lead. Enjoy the journey of purpose.