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Developing a Personal Mission

A personal mission is a powerful tool, and developing one is an extremely important skill for aspiring role model leaders to learn. Thinking about and developing a personal mission statement – and, most important, following through on that statement – is a key capability for anyone who hopes to inluence others. You cannot lead unless you are skilled at leading yourself.

Thinking deeply about and writing down and constantly revisiting a personal mission statement allows you to gain knowledge about what you need and want to change. It provides a roadmap of what to do to achieve the future you desire for yourself. Stephen Covey has written extensively about personal mission statements. It would serve you well to explore his thoughts.1

A speciic framework for a personal mission statement is given below. This one has served my personal needs very well over the years. It is a classic four-term learning framework; it has two dyads. The irst relates to the personal motivation to move from a current state towards a more satisfying future state (i.e., one's life goals):

Personal Current State → Priority Life Goals

As you go about constructing your personal mission statement, you will have a picture or a sense of what you want to accomplish in your life at a personal level. These goals can be and should be practical, indeed visceral

– things like “I want to be seen by others as successful,” “I want to dedicate

1 Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, rev. ed. (New York: Free Press, 2004). my life to serving others,” “I want to be seen by others as important,” and so on. It is important, though, that you be honest with yourself. Many people spend so much time trying to do the right thing as perceived by others that they ind it dificult to separate that from their real, personal life goals.

The second dyad focuses on the thinking and doing – on the operational work you will have to do to reach your goals:

Personal Values and Direction

Priority Work Activity

Here you need to think about, deine, and reafirm to yourself your personal values – those beliefs you hold strongly about yourself, your work, and your life. Also, you must develop a direction to bring about that future. For example, if you envision yourself as a senior leader in your company, or – to go in another direction – as an accomplished senior engineer at your company, you need to develop a strategy for achieving that future. Will you need to change jobs to gain more experience at leading different kinds of organizations? Will you need to do things differently to gain other experiences? Will you need to take time off from your company and go back to school to acquire a new set of skills? Deciding which actions to take may well require that you take time to do research, and to consult with others to get it right in your mind.

The second part of this second dyad is “priority work activity.” Here you need to further deine the work you should be doing to realize the vision and strategy you have described for yourself. For example, if your direction is to become a senior engineer, you will want to seek out work that will improve your leadership skills; and you will seek opportunities to network with senior managers, to learn more about the company's technologies, and so on.

Knowing Yourself

This skill is based on learning who you are, not who others consider you to be. It is important to do this in an ongoing manner – to constantly be learning more about who you are as you seek to improve yourself. Maxwell Maltz developed a thesis about this in his well-known book Psycho Cybernetics.2 In

2 Maxwell Maltz, Psycho Cybernetics (New York: Pocket Books, 1973). that work, he maintained that individuals must have a measure of selfawareness – an accurate and positive view of themselves – before setting any life goals; otherwise, they will never achieve those goals in their entirety.

Knowing oneself is a beneit to individuals and to others: a clear example was demonstrated to me when a talented research scientist working in a biotechnology company decided that he was not meant to be a manager giving orders to others. He decided he could learn to be a leader and inluence others and the company to dedicate resources to moving in a different direction. He saw the beneit to the company and to himself in engaging in medical end-use research and development, which was his personal competency and passion. I noted earlier that it is important to learn the character attributes of role model leaders. I will introduce these later on, but I will mention here that you cannot hope to strengthen your character unless you begin with a solid understanding of yourself. Perhaps the best tool for achieving understanding of yourself is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).3 Everyone, I believe, should take the test and have it evaluated by an expert. Doing so will give you tremendous insights; indeed, some people will tell you that the assessment cannot help but change those who take it. Perhaps that is going too far, but I believe that within certain boundaries, it is possible to change one's personality. For example, you can learn to become more extroverted or more introverted if you have the will to do so and the

skills to learn how, and the MBTI can help with that.

As an example, it is valuable information to know how much of an introvert you are. Having learned about introversion and extraversion, you can choose whether to act on that knowledge as part of an effort to change. You will, along the way, realize that role model leaders can be introverts or extroverts. What matters more is how you manage your personal energy. Introverts need to manage their personal energy in different ways than extroverts.

Leaders who have come to know themselves will have developed insight into how they react to various emotional stimuli. Every role model leader has a preferred and well-communicated leadership style. It is also true that role model leaders, to be maximally effective, need to be able to change their dominant style when facing a crisis. How well you know yourself and how well you are able to adapt to situations will determine how able you are to change your dominant style at critical moments. Various leadership styles will be discussed in the following pages.

3 Visit the Myers & Briggs Foundation, To have a strong degree of self-awareness is the irst step in understanding how others see you. Indeed, one could argue that self-awareness is important largely because it enables you to know how others see you. Unless you can inluence people to make positive change, you are not a leader. Until you become aware of how others perceive you, you will ind it very dificult to inluence others. So you must learn how to sense how others perceive you.

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