– And Still, Serve Your People With Passion

“A gentle answer turns away wrath”

Proverbs 15:1

Most of the wrath you experience is actually self-inflicted. You inflict wrath on yourself. Did you realize this? You experience wrath when you allow yourself to embrace stress and emotional turbulence. When you hold your mind and body in tension. When you hold yourself separate from the peace, joy, and simple pleasures of everyday life, both professionally and personally.

Are you ready to stop?

You can stop.

Any moment you choose.

When you learn to de-stress and become more emotionally steady, you’ll serve your people with more passion than ever before. It all begins with one simple — yet profound — piece of inner work. When you do this work, you will develop your own “gentle answer” to calmly, yet effectively, shed yourself of stress.

Determine Your Purpose in Life

Why do you exist? It’s a big question.

So you don’t feel on the spot, let’s first study a business. Specifically, let’s look at the core purpose of a company you know — Southwest Airlines. Southwest is an airline phenomenon. It started in 1971, and two years later, it was already profitable. Moreover, in an industry where bankruptcies and unprofitable years are the norm, Southwest Airlines has been profitable every year since 1973. That’s largely because Southwest knows its purpose. When it began operating 46 years ago, Southwest’s leaders determined that their company’s purpose was to open up the airways to everybody, not just the wealthy. Knowing their purpose helped them make all kinds of decisions.

If you want to make air travel an experience almost anyone can have, it makes sense to provide low fares. To offer low fares and still be profitable, they had to find ways to operate more efficiently than other airlines. They decided to fly only one kind of plane. In doing so, they made almost all their operations more efficient. They reduced the need for several maintenance hubs. Crew scheduling hassles were eliminated because every crew member could staff every airplane Southwest flew. When Southwest entered the market, about 18% of the American public had flown on a commercial airline. Today it’s over 90%. Southwest made that happen.

In this case study, here is what is important for you:

When you get locked down on your purpose, you find every decision easier to make. In fact, you quickly develop a litmus test:

“Is this decision going to help advance my purpose or not?”

I’ve answered this question both ways in my own life. I can tell you: clarity of purpose supports you to drop stress and tension and indecision. When you shed stress and tension and indecision, you pick up bandwidth for something far more impactful and pleasurable – serving and supporting.

How Jesus Became the Ultimate Servant Leader through Understanding His Life Purpose

On the surface, it was simple. Jesus chose to do things that were part of his purpose and avoid things that were not.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 

Mark 10:45

Imagine that you were there, in Galilee, where Jesus’ ministry on Earth played out. You would have seen a powerful teacher and leader. An unequivocal leader. Jesus taught “as one with authority.” His preaching drew crowds so big, He had to get into a boat and go out on the water to be able to teach them. He could have hobnobbed with the rich and the powerful, but He chose to set an example of serving.

Jesus chose to do things that were part of his purpose and avoid things that were not.

Jesus could have led the rebellion so many of His followers wanted. He did not.

Jesus chose to do things that were part of his purpose and avoid things that were not.

He could have assumed the trappings and rewards of power. He did not. 

Jesus chose to do things that were part of his purpose and avoid things that were not.

When the time came to go up to Jerusalem and submit to His fate at the hands of the powerful, He could have turned away. He didn’t.

When you understand your personal purpose and build your leadership upon it, you will live your life differently. You’ll differentiate. You’ll have energy and focus. You’ll be a leader who is passionate and confident, instead of stressed, indecisive, and riddled with tension.

How to Discern Your Purpose in Life

After spending several years helping people discover their unique purpose, I believe that you don’t create your own purpose.

You discern your purpose.

You’ve been gifted with skills and talents. You are passionate about these aspects of yourself and you know in your soul that they are important to how you move through your life here on Earth. When you analyze how these aspects of you can unfold in your life, you’re on your way to discerning your purpose.

Here are steps you can walk through to discern your personal purpose:

  1. Pray for God’s guidance. You’re not here by accident.
  2. Document your personal strengths, skills, and talents. God has gifted you. Write down how.
  3. What about you do you value highly and hold sacred?
  4. Prioritize these two lists. On one, you’ve listed how God has blessed you. On the other, you’ve highlighted what gives you the most joy.
  5. Write down what you want to be remembered for (your legacy).
  6. Considering these reflections, put together a purpose statement that illustrates who you are, what you value, what you are going to provide, and for what reason this will be done.

That’s just an overview. Here are those same steps, with a little more detail.

Pray for God’s guidance on the process, trusting that He will provide clarity on His mission for you while on earth.

Prayer is the way you connect your life to God’s will. When you ask, God will answer. When you seek, he will help you find your way.

Warning: You will be tempted to see this process as several discrete steps that you do one after the other. The process works best if you go back and forth and over and over the next three steps. You aren’t linear, by God’s design!

Suggestion: Make some notes about each one and then go about your daily routine. Keep some index cards or a notebook or a digital voice recorder handy to capture any ideas you get about your strengths or what’s important. Add those insights to your notes.

If you spend a few days engaging in this entire process, you’ll gain more insight into yourself.

Document the strengths, skills, and talents that God has gifted you with.

You can do several things to help identify your strengths. You’re in a leadership/executive position. But remember — God wants and needs you to open up your mind and heart to his will for your life. Write down the things people tell you-you’re good at. You can write down things you do easily and well, but other people seem to find more difficult. Ask your friends what they consider to be your strengths. One simple way to do that is to email several of them and ask them to tell you about a time when they think you were at your best. Be sure to take time for prayerful reflection. Ask yourself what tasks you “get lost in,” where time seems to fly by.

What projects give you energy?

Document those things that you value highly and hold sacred.

What’s most important to you? Take a look at how you spend your money. Review your calendar. How do you spend your time? Try completing the following sentence:

“It’s a good day when …”

Prioritize these two lists and then determine what, between the two lists, you are most passionate about.

There are no rules about how to do this. Choose any method that works for you — the more intuitive, the better. When you’re done, you’re almost there. But there’s a little more work to do.

Document what you want to be remembered for (your legacy).

Think about what you would like people to say about you at your memorial service. What kinds of stories do you want your friends and loved ones to tell about you?

Considering these reflections, put together a purpose statement that illustrates who you are, what you value, what you are going to provide, and for what reason your efforts will be undertaken.

Here are some of my favorites….

To be a student and teacher of simple truths.

—Ken Blanchard

To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.

—Denise Morrison, CEO, Campbell Soup

Lift people up, make Jesus smile.

—Brent Smith, CEO, Aagard Group

Your purpose will not necessarily be directly tied to your profession or job. Look at those statements you just read. Your purpose will be applicable to all aspects of your life and can be carried out every day, wherever you happen to be.

Leverage your purpose to cultivate your “gentle answer” to life’s wraths.

Can you see how this “deep dive” into your very reason for being alive can alleviate emotional turbulence? When you know who you are and what you are here on this Earth to do, you gain invaluable perspective.

What can ruffle your feathers, then?

What can stop you from serving?

Nothing.

Nothing can stop you.

Life, in fact, becomes more fluid when you’re moving with the Holy Spirit, instead of against it.

How can it not?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2



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MARK Deterding is an author, speaker, consultant, executive coach and the founder of Triune Leadership Services, LLC. His purpose is to work with leaders to help them develop core servant leadership capabilities that allow them to lead at a higher level and enable them to achieve their God-given potential. He has written two books, A Model of Servant Leadership, and Leading Jesus’ Way. With over three decades of experience directing companies and developing leaders, Mark created A Model of Servant Leadership parallel to the principles that Jesus himself illustrated. Working with organizations, leadership teams, and executives one-on-one, he helps bring focus, clarity, and action to make things work. He also conducts training programs to teach faith-based servant leadership principles. His greatest passion is seeing the impact servant leadership has on people’s lives and beyond. Prior to Triune Leadership Services he worked for 35 years in the printing industry holding senior leadership positions at Taylor Corporation, RR Donnelly, and Banta Corporation. He is an accomplished executive with a proven track record for developing purpose-driven; values based teams that drive culture improvement, enhanced employee passion, and improved business results. He is featured in Ken Blanchard’s book “Leading at a Higher Level”, and has been a featured speaker for the Ken Blanchard Companies Executive Forum in both 2007 and 2011. Mark lives in Alexandria, Minnesota with his wife Kim. They have two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and three grandchildren, so far. To find out more about Mark and his work, visit Triune Leadership Services via the Link adjacent his Photo above.
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