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Your Greater Leadership Purpose at Work

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Last week I spoke to a group of men at my church on the subject of "Spiritual Engagement at Work." To kick things off on a positive note, I opened by asking the following question: “How many of you feel a gaping disconnect between your spiritual lives and your work?” Without hesitation, all twenty hands in the room sprung into the air like pistols at a shoot-out. So. This is a problem. But I am not really surprised. Because most of us go through our entire careers without thinking about the greater spiritual purpose for the work that we do. Instead, we do what we think is expected of us - to deliver results, to serve the customers, to build shareholder value - all the while trying to keep the paychecks coming each week. And for those of us with a hefty dose of ambition, we may take things a bit further by chasing a future bright with promotions, raises, greater authority and the fullest realization of our leadership potential. But in either case, we tend to focus on the pressures and demands of getting the job done rather than fooling about with the lopsided notion of an underlying spiritual connection. Yet we’ll complain to anyone who lends an ear about the lack of spiritual fulfillment in our roles at work, the need for greater meaning in our lives and the earnest desire for serving a God who, we’ll gleefully admit, is everywhere. Except, apparently, at work. Now, look: if we can bring ourselves to acknowledge that our all-present, all-knowing, infinitely loving and powerful God is already present in the office cubicles, on the manufacturing plant floor and in the paneled corporate suites, then surely the problem is not with Him, it is with us. We’ve got to do a better job of revealing God’s presence in the workplace. But how? My friends over at A New Equilibrium (the same folks who are organizing the Leadership and Spirituality event at Princeton Theological Seminary later this week) and I are proposing a solution, one that can potentially restore the lost connection between the work grind and our spiritual lives. The key to unlocking the great divide between secular and sacred, we suggest, is in framing up our careers in the context of a Greater Leadership Purpose statement. Without a clear and spiritually compelling purpose for our work, we are apt to get lost in the routine inputs and outputs of what we do every day without tapping in to the greater meaning that our work brings to the lives of others. Being intentional about our greater purpose aligns the very best of who we are with the goals of our organizations and those with whom we work, enabling our leadership to become more authentic, balanced and influential. I can’t think of a better definition of success than that. At the center of this transformation is a subtle but monumental shift that takes the focus off of me - my job, my career, my responsibilities, my employees, my comp plan - and on to God working through me, to help and serve others as the unique leader that God has created me to be. Doesn’t that sound more appealing?

How to Define Your Greater Purpose

The core of this exercise involves the identification of the best strengths, talents, and skills you bring to your job that are unique to you, and you alone. You are made in God’s image, after all.

  • What do you do in your career or every day work life that gives you energy and enthusiasm?
  • What do others tell you that you are good at, that helps them succeed?
  • What are the things you do in your leadership position that bring you joy?

Spend some quality time answering these questions, and then choose the words or themes that best describe your unique abilities, attitudes, behaviors and talents. Now combine the words into a statement of purpose that directs these wonderful attributes towards those around you, in a way that helps others achieve the best and highest good for the organization, and also resonates with your spiritual identity. Here is what I have come up with as my own personal Greater Leadership Purpose for work:

To bring clarity and grace to all situations by facilitating the best possible outcome for everyone.

That may sound generic and trite to you, but for me it is a spiritually powerful conduit for unleashing the Holy Spirit in my job. This statement reflects years of experience, skills and personality traits that, when acknowledged and made fully available to God, allow me to operate at my best: calm, confident and connected with others. When I am in a meeting, in stressful situations, feeling tired and spent, I take a deep breath and remind myself of God’s greater purpose for my work by repeating this statement. It brings my efforts back into a sharper spiritual focus, motivating me towards a higher level of inspiration and creativity, knowing that God is using my work to touch the lives of others and impact my organization. I remember that it's not about me. No, this work that I am doing is much bigger than that. What is your Greater Purpose statement?

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