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Pedaling the Road of Leadership with a Sense of Purpose

Mind blowing red-rock formations arch skyward to my right. Low clouds and fog lend the scenery a mystical appearance. Sweat drips off my chin, bouncing from handlebars to shimmering blacktop. My parched throat punctures the splendor of my surroundings; my screaming thighs do their part to steal the landscape’s thunder; my dwindling blood sugar tries to peel the color from the day’s beauty. And, did I mention? My derriere hurts. I definitely wasn’t saddle-ready for cycling the wide open spaces of Utah.

But my tank is full.

I’m fueled by the bigger purpose for this ride: to raise money for cancer research. At this point in my life, this isn’t just a “nice thing to do.” One of my dearest friends has just succumbed to cancer. One year ago she was here riding with me on this same canyon road. Her personal journeys — and the healing efforts of people like her — keep me inspired. I’m not alone: with me are the five other members of our newly-formed Team Wisdom along with over 500 cyclists, each with an inspiring personal story. And the ride itself, the Moab Skinny Tire Festival, has raised over $1.6 million for cancer research in its first decade. Out on this long stretch of desert highway, I’m drafting (to use a cycling term) behind that powerful sense of momentum.

My experience on this trip is a great reminder about the power of purpose to create wellbeing and to motivate people to do extraordinary things. I’ve believed for years now that everyone has a reason for being, a purpose to fulfill. We all have answers to the question “why do I exist?”—if we’re courageous enough to ask. However, many of us are so far removed from those answers that we lack a larger raison d’être to guide our daily decisions and actions.

The pursuit of purpose can be such a personal journey that today I offer just a few thoughts on its application to leadership in organizations. Management consultant Kevin Cashman says:

Purpose is spirit seeking expression … It converts average-performing organizations … into highly spirited, effective ones. It transforms employees … into partners. With purpose, managers become leaders.

For the organization, purpose is something that outlasts “making a profit.” You could say the same of life purpose, but somehow encountering the personal side of purpose is unmistakable: out here on this eastern Utah highway I have no doubts about my store of energy, my direction, my destination. My purpose is crystal clear. And that is potent fuel.

Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.
Gautama Buddha

In researching my book Driven By Wellth, my interviews turned up a wide variety of people’s statements of purpose — for both their personal and professional lives. Some may seem simple, some ambitious; but as long as yours feels true, it can have a compelling influence when your life and work seem to need direction:

  • “To build a positive future for the company.”
  • “To continually provide clarity and direction for the department, and protect that focus from being eroded.”
  • “To help people open new doors of possibilities that they never believed were available to them before.”
  • “To integrate Eastern and Western ideas into a new paradigm for living, working and managing business.”
  • “To bridge the cultural, wealth and digital divides with global technologies.”
  • “To communicate authenticity and truth.”
  • “To maximize the best in people and situations.”

What answers ring true for you? What deeper purpose would give your leadership actions greater meaning?

I already miss my friend, Gerda. I know the miles she pedaled, both literally and metaphorically, in life were just a beginning. May you all feel the encouraging breeze — the cyclist’s benefit of drafting — that propels us forward together.

Photo by etharooni