Quiz: Are You a Purposeful Leader?

Learn why a written leadership purpose statement can make you more effective.

You’re a successful leader, which is probably why you’re reading this magazine. But what inspires you every day as you meet challenges, handle setbacks, face dissent and foster success? What is your leadership really all about? A written leadership purpose statement answers those questions. Take this quick test to learn more about why, how and when to use a leadership purpose statement.  

1. Do you have a leadership purpose statement?

A. I’ve made it this far in my career without one, so what do I need one for?

B. Um, sort of. I have a guiding philosophy of leadership I live by.

C. Sure do. Would you like to hear it?

Best answer: C

Sir Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and other highly effective leaders consider a leadership purpose statement to be an essential tool. 

2. Is your leadership purpose statement written down where you can see it?

A. Yes. It’s on my desk at work.

B. I wrote it down a while back, but I don’t need to see it every day to remember it.

Best answer: A

Having the words in front of you – on paper, on your phone, framed on your wall, even on a sticky note on your pencil cup – keeps you focused at all times

3. How many words are in your leadership purpose statement?

A. Why does it matter? Counting words is kind of silly.

B. 13.

C. At least 50. 

Best answer: B

It should be short, memorable and clear. We suggest 15 words or fewer.

4. Does your leadership purpose statement inspire you?

A. Yes. It’s my compass. I can visualize what happens when I use it.

B. No, I’m naturally an enthusiastic and positive person, so that’s all I need.

Best answer: A

Having a written leadership purpose statement is great, but it’s not enough. You also need to envision the impact you want to create when you are acting wholeheartedly in alignment with your purpose.  

5. Who have you told about your leadership purpose statement?

A. I told my manager and my team members. I want people to know what I’m all about as a leader. And when I tell someone my leadership purpose, I feel really good.

B. Only my spouse. If I told people at work, they could use it against me when I make an unpopular or bad decision.

Best answer: A

There is power in going public with your leadership purpose statement. The more you share it, the more support you’ll get. Plus, you’ll gain some external accountability.

6. You are getting ready to meet with Fred, a team member who has consistently fallen short of his performance goals. How do you use your leadership purpose statement in this meeting?

A. I already know what I’m going to say. Fred is on thin ice. He needs to know it.

B. I know I’m likely to get a little reactive, so reminding myself of my leadership purpose helps me reframe my mindset and my responses.

Best answer: B

Use your leadership purpose statement as input when you’re planning for critical conversations and you will be more likely to create positive outcomes.

7. You’re in the middle of a contentious meeting with a customer and your exasperation is showing. Can a leadership purpose statement help you in this tough conversation?

A. I don’t have time for reflection in the midst of possibly losing a customer.

B. I know my leadership purpose leads me to listen really well and try to understand the other person’s point of view and needs. That should help me.

Best answer: B

When you make your leadership purpose statement your guide in challenging situations, it can have a powerful impact on you as well as on the other person.

8. Your organization has just announced another wave of restructuring. What can your leadership purpose statement offer in this situation?

A. I wrote it down when things were going well. I don’t know if it will help now that things aren’t going well.

B. I’m worried, just like everybody else. But my purpose to “Promote excellence” gives me a few ideas about what I can do in this difficult situation.  

Best answer: B

Your leadership purpose statement won’t calm the whitewaters of change around you, but it can help you control your emotions and manage your stress. 

9. It’s time to create your development and performance plan for the year. Does your leadership purpose statement have a role?

A. Not really. My performance plan needs to focus on making progress tied to organizational goals.

B. Yes, but I need help aligning my purpose with my development and performance plan.

Best answer: B

When you use your leadership purpose statement to guide you, your plan will include long-term goals for living your purpose and short-term actions toward realizing those purpose-aligned goals.

By Sally C. Woods, Ed.D.
Photography by Mark Wagoner

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