Purpose, Strengths, Values: Defining Your Leadership Core

Do you have a clear sense of what makes you tick? By that I mean do you know what your “why” is, why it is that you do what you do? Over the course of a person’s career, many things change, including where one works and what one does for a living.

I’ve held seemingly diverse positions  in my life, worked for different organizations, but looking back I see that I was always doing similar work in a quest to satisfy my innate drives and core values.

Core purpose, talents and values are pretty much the constant factor working in everyone’s background. It’s your foundation upon which all that you do and say are based. It’s the music we’re in sync with.

How do we identify those elements, and how we put them into words so that we express them to others?

Becoming aware of our true strengths and core values may not come easily to some executives working in high stress positions. The “what” and the “how” gets loud and demanding, and a focus on producing results takes precedence.

Core purpose is at the intersection of your strengths and your values. Most of us have an idea of what our “why” or purpose is, but it gets a little fuzzy.

Clarifying purpose takes time and reflection. It’s a key component of any coaching program and one of the things we spend a lot of  time on in my coaching practice. A coach can guide you through questions to arrive at what is really most important to you.

This is important work, since leadership effectiveness is dependent on personal development. And the more one rises in an organization, the more important interpersonal skills become. Awareness of self is the first step towards improving one’s ability to lead others. (I cite the work of Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence, for example, and there are hundreds of other studies that confirm this.)

Deeply held values fuel the energy on which purpose is built. When you know your true values, your code of conduct becomes clear.

While the pursuit of power or wealth or success may all be sources of motivation, these goals are external and fill deficiency needs rather than serve intrinsic needs for growth and development. Values have intrinsic worth in that they provide a source of inspiration and meaning that cannot be taken away from us.

Here are some values that have been universally admired across cultures and religions throughout history:

  • Integrity
  • Authenticity
  • Generosity
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Loyalty
  • Perseverance

Can you identify with any of them? What stands out most for you? What resonates with you and seems to be more important than the others?

Here are some questions to explore with your coach to help you define your true values:

  1. What do you do at work that gives you great satisfaction and is something you would do even if you weren’t paid for it?
  2. What three qualities in yourself do others see in you?
  3. Who are you at your best?
  4. What are three most important lessons you have learned in your life?
  5. What would you like to see on your tombstone that best captures who you really were in your life?
  6. What were three small incidents in your day today that gave you great pleasure? (and what about those incidents ignited your passion?)
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