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The journey to leadership clarity and getting unstuck begins with the journey to personal clarity.  The role of leader is just one hat that you wear throughout the day and if your life is like mine, you are in the follower role a lot more than leader.

The first question to tackle to establish crystal clarity and get unstuck is “why do I exist?”  The answer to this question goes to the core purpose of who you are and lays down the rails you’ll ride along.  It’s not the destination, goal or objective itself but rather the guidepost or framework you operate within to get to the destination.  The destinations change frequently, but your core purpose probably will not.  A core purpose is something you wake up with each day. Without purpose, we’re in a reactive state where our direction is dictated by our mood, circumstances and other people.

This isn’t a catchy slogan or personal mission statement that fits neatly in a frame on your office wall.  This is purely for you and will be messy at first because we don’t spend much time thinking about things like purpose and so the answer to “why do you exist?” may evolve as you spend time with it.

It’s important that the answer be aspirational and go deeper than the everyday purposes or goals you might have (i.e. make a living, build a business, be as successful as I can be).  If your first pass at this is one of these “external” destinations, take it to the next level and ask yourself, “why is that important?”  Ask this “why” question again and again and again until you get to the core.  As Patrick Lencioni describes it in The Advantage, it’s “that point will be somewhere just shy of to make the world a better place.”

Another way to approach the question is the eulogy exercise.  Imagine you are attending your own funeral and able to listen to what is being said.

  1. What do you want the eulogy to consist of?
  2. What do you want to hear about achievements?
  3. What are you hearing is the difference you made?
  4. What do you want to hear about how you treated people?

The answers to these questions will give insight into what is most important to you and the mark you want to leave on the world.

Take this work also into your leadership role and make inquiry of your team members’ core purpose a part of your regular conversations.  Remember,you can’t lead someone you don’t know and knowing someone’s answer to “why they exist?” builds trust and ultimately influence.

Why do you exist?

Who will you spend some time with today on this question?

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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