Walking through the streets of Providence after the recent Women in Leadership Nexus event on leadership presence, the ideas of personal mission, legacy, brand, and the profound question of who am I? were all ringing in my ears. As a Strategic Career Coach, I guide my clients to uncover and articulate their mission statements, but our gathering challenged me to think more deeply about how central sense of purpose is to grounding ourselves as leaders.
A personal mission is a short, powerful statement that captures the impact you aim to have in the world. While organizations have mission statements that lead their collective work, your mission guides how you show up to your leadership and your life on an individual level. This guiding statement helps you set priorities, manage your energy, and recognize opportunities to approach challenging situations in ways that are true to who you are and what you stand for.
The irony is that, though your mission lies beneath everything you do, it’s not a simple thing to uncover—it takes introspection, self-awareness, and a connection with your authentic self to articulate your purpose with clarity. And while we may have a vague idea of our purpose rolling around in our heads as we go about our days, few of us take the time to actually sit down and work through a process to craft a statement that truly captures what drives us as leaders. By making your mission statement conscious and tangible, you can use it as a tool to ground and guide your authentic leadership.
Here are some guidelines for writing a clear and impactful personal mission statement:
1. Keep it brief. The more succinct, the more powerful. As much as possible, challenge yourself to avoid using the word “and.” You want your message to be memorable, clear, and precise.
2. State everything in the positive. Your mission is about what you want to achieve, not what you want to prevent or avoid. It should pull you forward into a powerful future rather than push away something from the past.
3. Make it vehicle-free. Your purpose is not limited to any one career path; it can be expressed through many different roles and industries. A vehicle-free mission keeps you adaptable and resilient in a changing job economy—this is what you stand for no matter what your job situation. No need to spell out how you’ll carry out your purpose in your mission statement—save that for setting your goals and implementation strategies.
4. Pack a punch. Use words that are powerful and emotionally charged for you. They should excite you, light you up, and maybe even intimidate you a little bit!
For inspiration, here are three of my favorite examples from former coaching clients:
My mission is to make our nation more equitable by bringing people together to explore new pathways for change and to support one another as they discover joy in making a difference.
My mission is to apply my dedication to a life of service and my belief in meaningful collaboration to empower youth and provide them with equitable opportunities for success in education, career and life.
The purpose of my life is to live authentically, welcome radically, act justly, and reflect deeply.
And three more mission statements of CEOs gathered by Forbes:
To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world. - Amanda Steinberg, Dailyworth.
To help people find hope and comfort after loss. - Gloria Horsley, Open To Hope.
I hold space for others to courageously risk revealing their messy, broken pieces; discover the redemptive power of grace, and stand in their most authentic truth so they may unravel into their best selves. - Makeda Pennycooke, “Makeda Pennycooke” Business Strategies.
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Carole Ann Penney, Strategic Career Coach & Founder of Penney Leadership, develops mission-driven leaders who are ready to take the next steps in their career development. She is a member of The Lady Project’s Board of Directors and mentors emerging female leaders through Brown University's Women's Launch Pad Program. When she is not coaching, she’s developing the most important emerging leader in her life—her three-year-old daughter, Avery Jean. Connect with her at: LinkedIn, Instagram.