Lesson From A Wise Man
My father in-law passed away one year ago this week. He was a man who had become wise through many years of service and commitment to his community and family. He taught me many things including servant leadership. Even in his few remaining months and days before he passed away he was always keen to find a project to work on. In fact the greatest loss he experienced was the day he realized that he could no longer work on a project. This moment is indelibly etched in my mind as the most powerful lesson he ever taught me; the power and place that purpose plays in our lives.
He has always been a "doer" and a handyman and the guy you could count on to help out. In the course of his long and fruitful life he learned many skills from mechanics to carpentry. He is a pastor which I suspect was a natural outgrowth of his purpose which was found in helping others. He taught many of our children to drive and how to change the oil on the car. Always a friend and always willing to listen and share some wisdom. These were the things that kept him going and gave him purpose.
I saw this as an expression of the deep seated need we all share with regard to having a purpose. Take away someone’s purpose and you rob them of an essential part of their identity and you indeed rob them of hope. The lesson I observed in his life is how crucial it is for a person to have purpose and for a leader to be supportive with their people regarding this need.
We All Have A Purpose
There is much research on this issue. The Association for Psychological Science has posted a study that shows that having people develop and know their purpose in life will actually have a beneficial health effect and add years to their life. Many great thinkers and humanitarians have addressed the issue of purpose as well. Helen Keller said; "True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." In another quote Sharon Angle states "There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life, no matter what its location, age, gender or disability."
What Is Your Purpose?
You must know your purpose and you must lead others to understand theirs. You may look at what you do or what they do as just a job but a true leader will clear away the mundane to reveal the greater purpose in even the most trivial of tasks. When the Archbishop of Paris came to watch the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral he chatted with a few of the stone masons. He would ask them what their role was and what they were doing. Most would say I am cutting stones for the front entrance or the walls of the chapel but one caught his attention when he replied "I am part of building something that will bring glory to God and will be enjoyed by generations to come!" All were stone masons but only one could see his "purpose" with clarity. What would your company or unit or team achieve if everyone had that stone masons perspective on the work they do?
Here is a challenge for you. We all know that a job is a job is a job. But a truly great leader will help their team see that job as so much more and will help them connect that to a purpose. What is your purpose? The purpose of those in your company or on your team? So I say thank you to my father in-law for reminding me of the power of purpose. Performance Leadership - Think About It!