As I have mentioned before, I am involved in a men’s biblical study at my church. It is the book “Stepping Up” by Dennis Rainey. Its good stuff and I suggest it, if anyone is looking for something. One of the things I like about it, is it could be adapted to anyone in any walk of life, including young men. Last night we had some discussion on a mission for our lives, this turned into a discussion that maybe we should write a mission statement for our lives. On the drive home, it occurred to me, that maybe to be a leader, you needed to have a mission statement. More on that in a bit . . .
Where I developed the vast majority of my leadership skills and techniques, our missions were given to us. We were never really privy to how they were selected, or who selected them. However it was up to the team members to develop the plan for achieving a successful mission. Now we always had some operating parameters that we had to deal with, “rules for the playground” we called them, but rules nonetheless. So our typical mission briefing was — Here is the objective, Here are the support options, How do we get this done? Then there was typically an hour of how, what, why and when questions. My point is only that the goal was ever revealed to us in that setting.
Lets talk about mission statements for a minute. I have been in the boardroom where the discussion started, “We need a mission statement”, and I have been in some offices where it was just a plaque on the wall. It needs to be a statement that accurately represents the goals of the company and really what it stands for. It takes some honesty and some real introspective discussions.
Now I see a personal mission statement as a little harder. A mission statement is not exactly a piece of creative writing. We write what we sense to be true about ourselves, although often it seems we are writing what we would like to be true. Writing what is true about ourselves isn’t as easy as it may seem. We sometimes don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do. We perhaps believe things because we are expected to believe them. We feel inclined to pursue a certain path because it is socially approved. We may fear other people’s criticism if we do what we feel is right for us. So writing a mission statement is really an adventure in self-discovery. We are working to uncover our talents, our interests, and our deepest desires for life. Writing a mission statement can be a tool for clarifying things that we otherwise might not know.
Most people, at some point in their lives, long for a sense of meaning and purpose. They sense that they have talents and contributions to offer but are not sure what their talents are. The mission statement is a way of discovering that sense of purpose by coming to know ourselves better.
So what I have decided is that we obviously should not change our mission statement as we lead. But what about developing a leadership vision? In crafting a personal vision statement to help define your leadership role, you need to focus on the future and where you want to lead others. Without a vision statement, you run the risk of being caught up in the pressures and urgencies of the present moment, always putting out fires and paying attention to immediate deadlines. It is too easy to sacrifice the future for the current circumstances.
So, what is the leadership lesson here?
I think it is this. As leaders we are “doers” by nature. And the problem is in always doing the right things or doing the most important things. A mission statement can help us stay focused on those tasks that are central to the overall success of the mission.