Are You Leading and Living from “Purpose to Impact?”

Susan S Freeman Blog

I’ve noticed that January is often the month in which many of my clients are asking:  “Am I on purpose?” 


The busy holiday season is over, the company has left, and the possibilities of the new year stretch in front of us like a vast ocean.  I often hear: “what do I want to do differently this year” or “what’s next for me that will be challenging” or “I don’t know what I want but I know it’s not another year like last year!”

You may be looking to pivot, or change directions entirely, as was true for one of my newer clients.   Last year may have been an ending to a long-standing career in one organization.  If so, 2019 may be the time in which you get to dream,  distill, and direct your future.

What I’ve also observed is that no matter how old we are, we can feel frightened by the sheer magnitude of figuring out exactly what we are moving towards. This is because we don’t have a clear definition of our leadership purpose.   Nick Craig and  Scott A. Snook, authors of the article “From Purpose to Impact” in the Harvard Business Review, found that “found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose. Even fewer can distill their purpose into a concrete statement.”

Importantly, they go on to state “that the process of articulating your purpose and finding the courage to live it—what we call purpose to impact—is the single most important developmental task you can undertake as a leader.”

This daunting discovery task requires space and time to ask questions to identify your skills, gifts, values, and passions.  You should eventually be able to describe “My leadership purpose is…..” 

Prior to becoming a coach, I went through an in-depth process like this one by hiring my own career transition coach.  Over a 6-month timeframe, I went through many exercises; writing a short autobiography, identifying my gifts and skills, exploring times in my life when I felt most energized, etc.    I learned that my next career would be coaching, but it was not until quite a bit later that my purpose became clear:  to help leaders create clarity about what matters, connect to their passion for brilliant execution so they can achieve breakthrough results. 

Craig and Snook have three excellent suggestions to get you started on finding your purpose:

  1. What did you especially love doing when you were a child, before the world told you what you should or shouldn’t like or do? Describe a moment and how it made you feel.
  2. Tell us about two of your most challenging life experiences. How have they shaped you?
  3. What do you enjoy doing in your life now that helps you sing your song?

After this is complete, work with a small peer group or a coach to refine the narrative into a short statement.

In order to connect purpose to impact, you’ll need a plan of action that is behavioral in nature.  It needs to be granular and not “fuzzy.”  What exactly will you do in order to move forward, daily, weekly, monthly?  Again, working with an individual coach or peer group to support your intention, goals, and maintain consistency of action is critical to staying on the path.

A whole new year ahead is like having a blank white canvas upon which to splash your unique shapes and colors.  What do you want to put on yours?

I invite you to post your comments here.  If this resonates with you, we offer a structured approach to help you “dream, distill, and direct your new future.”  Reach out to us at

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