Writing your leadership mission statement
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Writing your leadership mission statement

May 3, 2023 | Updated on May 4, 2023

A mission statement is a short and compelling way for people to understand the purpose and direction of an organization. It is often looked at as a guiding principle and a cornerstone— something to inspire the organization’s team and customers.

But individuals can write mission statements, too. In fact, this is something Stephen Covey recommends in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Typically, your mission statement should be no more than three sentences highlighting your purpose and the impact you want to have. It is a guide for what you do, how you do it and, most importantly, why you do it—for your decisions and how you work with others, and for how you approach projects and people.

In short, a mission statement will help you answer the question, “Where do you want to be and why?”

Where to start

Covey posits that a good mission statement reflects your character, your contribution and your values. Here are some prompts to consider that will help you write an incisive mission statement that says something important about yourself.

  • Think about the moments in your life that matter. What stands out, big or small? Why do those moments come to mind? Note the themes that cut across your answers.
  • Think about times when things didn’t go as planned, times when you felt vulnerable and times that changed you. What themes do you notice?
  • What are your main values? These are the things that are most important to you and your life, setting a standard for your personal and professional priorities. Identifying your top values is no easy task and takes a lot of self-reflection, which is why we focus on becoming self-aware in our leadership development programming.
  • Who and what do you want to have an impact on? What do you want to be known for? Think about this more in terms of what you want to inspire people to do, think or feel.
  • What does success mean to you? To achieve a sense of excellence, what are you striving toward? Are these goals in line with your values?

Model mission statements

When you are ready to start writing your mission statement, keep it positive, in the present and focused on what drives you toward success. Here are a couple of examples of mission statements that might help you create your own.

  • Oprah Winfrey, founder of The Oprah Winfrey Network: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
  • Amanda Steinberg, founder of Dailyworth.com: “To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.”
  • Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize laureate and activist: “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl [and] every child to be educated.”

Your mission statement will change over time. Periodically, revisit your goals and values to make sure they align. Consider whether your mission statement needs to be adjusted and make sure you are still in sync with the goals and values that matter the most to you. Keep it short and make it something you and others will remember.

Learn more about the offerings and resources from our Public Service Leadership Institute, a central source of programs, policies and perspectives related to leading in government.

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