Do you think of yourself as a leader?
The fact is that you’re leading and influencing others even if you don’t realize it. Your attitudes and behaviors affect the people around you in ways seen and unseen. Some actions or philosophies cast a bigger net than others, but you’re leading nonetheless.
We are social creatures, and we can’t help but impact the people we live, work and interact with. Unless you’re a hermit, you’re leading someone for better or for worse.
So what’s leading you?
Most people simply go through life in the day to day. They seek immediate gratification and have no long-term vision for their impact on this world or the people in it. It’s just not something they think about.
In his great book The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek explains that creating a meaningful life starts with a personal why. The greatest goal in life is to leave a long-term positive effect after you are gone. To do that, you must align your vision for what that effect will be with your way of life.
For me, there are some clearly definable foundations of that alignment—my 5 P’s. They are Purpose, Principles, Positive Impact, Planning and Patience. Let me elaborate.
For most people, purpose involves helping others in some way. But your purpose will be unique to you, and no one else can define it for you. The secret here is to take time to outline your true north or your guiding light and identify what about it moves you. It’s almost like you have to work backward. As you write your purpose down, you can begin to identify your principles better.
What eternal truths are in accordance with your purpose? Justice? Fairness? Humility? Again, you get to decide. Get a handle on the principles you want to live with. As you identify them, you’ll gain insight and self-awareness on how you lead, how you make decisions and what influences you to act as you do. It’s the same for people as it is for organizations: When Jeff Bezos first created Amazon, he originally started with eight core leadership principles that helped create the culture of the organization. In time these grew to 14 principles that now inspire and guide nearly a million employees.
You must understand the ways the world, your community or simply the people closest to you need you, the ways you can most positively impact them. Aim the might of your principles in that direction. You definitely need some deep social awareness to understand where you or your business are in relation to the rest of the world.
In order to leave a legacy that outlives you, you’ve got to have a plan for how you and your contributions will continually grow. For most entrepreneurs, this will involve building an expanding team to carry out the mission of your purpose in more and more positively impactful ways. Remember: Your principles have to be at the heart of the organization.
Progress takes time. The people around you need to fully understand that. You’re not going to build a personal legacy or an organization that does tremendous good in the world over the course of a few days, weeks or months. There will be times when you will ask yourself if your hard work is worth it. As you work to live on a higher level than most people, the burden can get overwhelming. It can weigh on you. But remember, there’s a reason you’re striving: Your purpose. When in doubt, reconnect with it.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Malcolm Muggeridge that I have hanging in my hallway in a big frame: “Only the dead fish swim with the stream.”
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by @sabrinafvholder/Twenty20