Discovering our Purpose

By Jacqueline Salter, 2019 Women’s Leadership Program Graduate

Leadership…It’s something we may fall into, or something we feel we should be doing at certain times in our career or lives. But how many people stop to consider why they lead? How many people have a clear leadership vision?

To develop a clear leadership vision, we must discover our purpose, for it is purpose that nourishes our soul and keeps us energized. Research suggests that only about 20% of leaders can clearly and convincingly express their own individual purpose. And of those leaders with a purpose, very few have a plan for translating it into action. I am lucky that I have always been very clear about my passion, which is working to protect the environment. However, it’s taken me a long while to think of myself as a leader and consciously embrace purposeful leadership. In June this year, I undertook the Women’s Leadership Program with Leadership Victoria. At the time, I was working towards establishing a ‘Women in Conservation’ mentoring program and I hoped the program would give me some skills to do that. I was not disappointed! Whilst I was used to public speaking and was clear on what I was passionate about, I wasn’t prepared for the deep introspective journey of self-discovery we embarked upon.

There was a strong emphasis on understanding your strengths, values and passion. Understanding these three things is the key to leading with purpose. It is useful to reflect upon the pivotal moments of our past – the challenging and the rewarding – and how we draw upon our strengths in those times. Values are revealed by reflecting on what we turn to when making difficult decisions. Unearthing our passion can come from reflecting on when it is that we feel most fulfilled. Passion is what keeps us energized, powerful, and resilient during difficult times. It drives deep engagement with what we do.

Together, these reflections help us develop a clear purpose, and gives guidance in a complex and ever-changing world.  Our purpose energises us and gives us the confidence to make the right decisions. Our purpose doesn’t have to be grand or ostentatious. Having a clear purpose allows us to find meaning in what we do, every day.

Setting up the conservation mentoring program is an example of something that excites, engages and inspires me. It makes me feel like I can make a difference. If you are true to our values, and are leading with purpose, others will recognise the authenticity behind your words and actions. In this way, you can inspire others and bring them along on your journey.  Rather than focus on what I need to work on, playing to my strengths allows things to flow easily and makes the journey so much enjoyable! I hope that by encouraging the mentors in my program to focus on the strengths of their mentees, we will support the development of future leaders.

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