How to Keep Your Focus on What Matters Most: Develop a Mission Statement

emotional intelligence Jul 01, 2024

I am naturally curious and passionate about learning and exploring new endeavors. However, earlier in my career, I often jumped from one opportunity to another. My priorities shifted frequently, and my attention span was limited. It was as if I were a squirrel in a park full of acorns, darting from one tree to the next, never staying in one place long enough to gather a proper stash.

One day, a frustrated and confused team member approached me. Exasperated, she asked me to clarify our goals and where we were headed with our work. Her questions made me realize how unguided my leadership had become.

I needed a solution to this chaotic state of affairs. I committed to developing a clear leadership mission statement, enabling me to stay the course and live and work through my values and vision. Moreover, I longed for the clarity that would enable me to set the stage for creating a shared vision with my team. 

What is a Leadership Mission Statement?

I built my leadership mission statement on what I cared about most as a leader. The statement channeled my purpose into declarations of what I desired to achieve as a leader and how I envisioned creating these outcomes.  

While I have modified my mission statement occasionally as I have grown as a leader, my statement continues to serve as my guide, keeping my leadership focused and helping me avoid distractions. More importantly, it empowers me to make decisions confidently, knowing they align with my values and goals.

Dangers of Leading Without a Mission Statement

While some leaders may have a natural propensity for focus, many of us risk becoming ineffective without a clear guide in the form of a mission statement. 

Inconsistent Decision-making

Without a mission statement, I fell into shiny penny traps regularly. I jumped from one project to another based on what caught my fancy.

 My decisions were inconsistent, creating an unpredictable environment that prevented my team from understanding my expectations and priorities. Frankly, I, too, needed clarification about those priorities.

Arbitrary decisions erode trust and respect. My team began to question my judgment and commitment to our stated values, and rightly so. Without a clear mission, I was steering us off course.

Ethical Vulnerability

Ethical leadership is rooted in clearly understanding one's values and principles. Without a personal leadership mission statement, I was more vulnerable to ethical lapses.

One employee pointed out that I sometimes seemed to compromise on our moral values. For instance, I nearly signed a contract with a client who violated some of our core principles. Thanks to an employee's good judgment and courage, we withdrew from the deal when the prospective client’s ethical lapses came to light. A clear mission statement could have prevented me from considering such work in the first place.

I was experiencing ethical drift – gradually moving away from my principles without realizing it.

Creating a Lasting Legacy Requires Focus

Outstanding leadership is about leaving a legacy. As I crafted my leadership mission statement, I began to understand how, without it, I risked prioritizing short-term achievements over long-term implications.

Reflecting on my learnings, I've realized that curiosity and passion are powerful drivers, but they can lead to chaos without direction. Establishing a clear leadership mission statement has transformed my approach, anchoring my decisions and aligning my actions with my core values. It has enabled me to create a consistent and ethical practice.

To all the squirrels in the park, remember: while chasing every shiny acorn is exciting, sometimes the most fulfilling path requires focus and commitment. Define your mission, stay the course, and you'll gather a richer stash and leave a lasting legacy.

Look at my online short course, How to Create a Leadership Mission Statement!

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