“Successful companies keep this idea front and center: People seek purpose.” – Rich Karlgaard, Forbes.com, “Purpose-Driven Leadership

In the same Forbes article, Karlgaard lists two examples of why purpose is so important:

“Abraham Maslow had it right. Once our physical needs are met, we long for love, belonging, esteem and finally what Maslow called ‘self-actualization’–that our lives count.”

I seek for purpose in my work. I don’t want just to “get tasks done.” I want to make a difference, meaning a great positive impact, in the world.

Reworking the vision

I’ve been traveling down a path with a certain vision. However, it’s time for a few tweaks. I realized something very important: much of my vision depended on others. If I have a vision for who I want to be, it can’t all depend on others. For example, part of the vision is to “be respected.” Do I fail if no one chooses to respect me?

However, at the same time, I also know that we should be interdependent beings, not islands attempting to achieve something all on our own.

Therefore, I want to be clear with myself on what is in my power and what involves the free will of others.

Old vision

As a thought leader I am:

  • respectful and respected
  • balanced and effective
  • enabling and vulnerable
  • boundless with knowledge, yet succinct
  • relaxed with harnessed passion

New vision

I am:

  • happy and fulfilled
  • passionate and peaceful
  • balanced and effective

As an influencer, I am:

  • respectful and respected
  • enabling and vulnerable
  • boundless with knowledge, yet succinct

“Doing” vs. “Being” a Good Leader

My mentor sent me an article on the subject of leadership. I found it helpful as I think of myself as a leader. An individual can be a leader without being a manager. The article talks about asking yourself:

  • 5-7-10: where was I when I was 5 years old? What was I doing 7 years ago? Where do I want to be in 10 years?
  • What do you want to be in ten years? Be ≠ president of the company, retired, spending more time with activity X.

Once you realize that “being” a good leader is different from “doing” your job well, live by the following principles:

  • understand yourself
  • understand your context
  • be fully present with a person and understand their needs and concerns; put away your smartphone and turn away from your computer when you meet with others

Leadership is a lot about the other person, but it’s also about yourself. It’s neither one nor the other alone. It makes sense: the title “leader” is a relational term. You can’t be a leader if you’re not leading anyone.

For example, I always catered to everyone’s “needs,” saying yes to every request and burning myself out. I was focused on the people I was leading and their needs, but I had left out the leadership part of my role (me and the cohesive identity of “being” I want for myself), so I was just being thrown about by the many voiced needs of my colleagues. What I needed to do was clearly define how I want to be as a leader and how that helps people most, and then control my own schedule for achieving that.


In my most recent meeting with my mentor (over a delicious cup pumpkin-spice-flavored steamed milk), I realized my vision as a thought leader was missing one important element: happiness. I should make sure that in all of this striving to “be” who I want to be, that I be happy.

I believe my idea of balance is a reactionary goal based on stress, the stress that reduces happiness if not experienced in appropriate doses (like healthy deadlines vs. debilitating inhumane levels of work to be done).

My List of Behaviors

Nearly every diligent person, who is passionate about the work they do, struggles with balance. I have at different points in my career felt more balanced than at other times. I keep a list of “tasks” I need to do – behaviors I have focused on cultivating. The list is different from other task lists, however, because I do not check off any as completed. That’s why I want to call it my list of behaviors. It is a reminder to me that the process is ongoing. My list includes:

Declutter • Focus on one task at once • Allow myself to edit commitments to what I can do • Eliminate all but essentials • Don’t do everything at once • Declutter my mind • Do nothing for a moment • Eat more slowly • Have a purpose for each day • Focus on the big rocks, not the sand • Clear out the inbox • Clear off my desk • Be an early riser • Be motivated • Decompress after high stress situations • Cultivate more compassion • Escape materialism • Live the Golden Rule • Accept criticism with grace and appreciation • Have faith in humanity • Boost my self-confidence and respect my expertise • Live my life mindfully and more aware

I have been focusing on these behaviors for a long time now. There is still progress to be made, but I feel that I’ve come a long way. There are some behaviors listed above that I have improved and others with which I still struggle. However, awareness is the first critical step, as my mentor would say!

A Lack of Balance

My mentor followed up with me on my vision:

Respectful and Respected • Balanced and Effective • Enabling and Vulnerable • Boundless with Knowledge, yet Succinct • Relaxed, with Harnessed Passion

I mentioned that I struggled most with balance this past month. I usually work too hard, don’t get out for lunch, and experience anxiety over every detail, relationship, project, and collaboration. My mentor then drew for me a wheel. I think some people call it a “wheel of life” or a “life balance wheel”. He didn’t draw the typical wheel (where each section represents one of family, career, health, education, spirituality, etc.), but rather my mentor created one out of the parts of the vision I have for myself (respectful and respected, enabling and vulnerable, etc.).

I marked where I felt I was with each part of my vision. Balanced and effective are the characteristics where I marked myself lowest. My goal in the next two weeks is to work on this part of who I am and who I want to be. My balance affects my effectiveness, which I feel affects the other parts of the wheel.

Each section of the wheel requires a certain “value”. I expressed to my mentor that I feel I only have a certain aggregate value and if I spend more value (time, effort, energy) on one part of the wheel, something else will fall short. However, he assured me that the wheel doesn’t necessarily work that way. I realize that the wheel itself reflects balance between all these sections – balance itself is needed for the entire vision to work.

Doing vs. Being

I think I have moments when I am afraid I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’m not afraid of the unknown – of adventures and risks and trying something new – I’m afraid of not knowing – what I want, what I should work toward.

However, the point of being mentored is not to do what I want to do – or know what I want to do – but to be and know who I want to be. Being is the real goal. When I am being who I want to be, the doing will naturally come out of it.

Actions and Decisions Outside of Work

From my mentor:

“On the weekends I read your mentoring blog.

Suggestion: Going forward capture actions/decisions you make that might be outside your usual as they relate to your goals and future self. Example, the decision not to travel so that you remain true to your goals and your balance (despite what family/friends or others might prefer).

It is your blog so of course your decision…

Your favorite mentor”

A Vision for Myself

My homework for the two weeks after I met with my mentor was to write, draw, envision who I want to be. I don’t think I knew exactly what I was doing, but I started to write. I came up with words such as ‘eloquent,’ ‘better-dressed,’ ‘better presentations,’ and ‘time management.’ I also read some articles on professional development and the articles mentioned a lot of what not to do: complain/whine, gossip/talk about others, etc. This was a good start. 

In my meeting with my mentor, I was asked lots of questions. Why do I want to be more eloquent? How am I now that doesn’t match that? What can I do to be more eloquent? He asked many questions to help guide me to find answers for myself, but did not tell me his opinions. As a coach, he did not tell me what to do, how to be, or even ideas of how I can develop professionally. He asked me and helped me find out on my own what it means to me. 

My list of characteristics still focused on the details and on what to ‘do’. However, I still need to get to the ‘be’. I told a story of what happened to me that week. I gave a presentation for a group of professionals in another department. They reacted with skepticism to the presentation. I felt I hadn’t done as well with the presentation as I had hoped, especially when the reaction was a negative one. I knew that the topic (in the field of technology) was what the group didn’t entirely accept, but I couldn’t help feeling that they didn’t completely accept me or trust my expertise. 

My mentor said something like, “It sounds like you want to be someone who commands respect.” He didn’t mean someone people fear. He just meant that I want to be someone whom people can trust and whose expertise people feel they can trust. He then taught me about respect. To be respected, you have to be respectful. He taught me some principles of how to be more respectful than I already am. Small example: If I am late to a meeting as a result of circumstances beyond my control, how do I apologize for it without dwelling on it? Little case studies like this helped me see how I can treat people I really do respect with the type of respect they will be able to easily identify and feel and trust.