Leadership development has no graduation, there is always room for improvement. Continual change and growth is inevitable as people and cultures adapt to an ever-changing workplace. But what makes an effective leader, and what do the greatest leaders have in common?

Effective leadership supports and encourages. A respected leader gives clear direction and sets challenging but achievable goals to work toward. They are quick to acknowledge individual and team achievements or identify any shortcomings. Their leadership style improves employee morale, fosters a beneficial culture, reduces absenteeism, and boosts talent retention.

This article draws awareness to the importance of contemplation and self-reflection for those leading. It encourages you to think about where you are now, how you got here, and where you are heading. Have you realized your personal and leadership purpose?

What Leadership Development Means to Me

How often do you ask what your leadership role means to you? The best leaders continually question themselves and their professional purpose. So, understanding your drive is central to developing and highlighting your self-improvements as selling points. We will look more into that shortly. But first, let’s see how asking questions shines a spotlight onto your internal thought processes and why that matters.

7 Questions Successful Leaders Ask Themselves


Taking time at the end of each workday to self-reflect helps you prepare for tomorrow without interruption. It’s an ideal time to contemplate what’s going well, what needs improvement, and new leadership approaches. Moreover, positive self-evaluation enables you to adjust and course-correct while eliminating self-doubts.

The idea of questioning oneself is to develop a structured approach so that you do not get pressured and pushed along in an otherwise busy organization. The seven questions below work equally for a new manager striving to become an effective leader or an experienced senior leader who wants to become even better. 

#1 What did I learn today?

At the end of every day, your first question should be, what did I learn? Closing your working day with this question helps you to build your professional purpose. Of course, the answer may be something positive, negative, or both, but failure is often a great teacher.

#2 What can I improve on?

If something went wrong in your day, ask how you might approach a similar situation differently when it happens again. To get the most from these questions, expect to leave your comfort zone. Developing leadership skills is a nonstarter unless you are willing to challenge your status quo. Sometimes, an executive or CEO coach can help jumpstart the thought process by helping to provide a new perspective and insight you cannot address from your point of view [1]. 

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#3 How should I anticipate tomorrow?

Exceptional leaders are proactive and acquire a highly honed sense of anticipation, even though it’s an often overlooked and or undervalued skill. To develop this critical skill, ask what you can do in anticipation of tomorrow. This question will strengthen your ability to foresee and respond to potential uncertainties, which is a significant advantage for anyone in a management role.

#4 What and how should I prioritize?

To prioritize is to organize, and strategic leaders must be well-organized to be effective. Asking this question helps you identify and manage critical tasks without distraction. “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” according to Dwight E. Eisenhower. Rarely anything goes to plan in work or life, but thinking critically about what is important and what is not before the moment of decision prepares you to be a better and more decisive leader. It’s less about prioritizing your schedule and more about scheduling your priorities.

The six questions below will help you adopt a priorities mindset

  1. What is everyone doing today, this week, and this month?
  2. Is this worker really the best person for the task at hand?
  3. Have I set realistic, achievable goals?
  4. What is the outcome of a particular priority task?
  5. Do I effectively track the progress of ongoing tasks?
  6. What could I do to achieve more?

Add other questions to the list that pertain to your role, team, and organization.

#5 What should I delegate and to whom?

To delegate is not a simple case of giving a task to an employee and hoping they deliver. Instead, consider who to trust the job with and at what time. The idea is to leverage team strengths and talent to maximize productivity. Developing effective leadership delegation skills frees up your time, allowing you to focus on other tasks and strategic thinking.

#6 Is there someone in the team I can help?

Helping others positively impacts them, you, and the company. For example, dedicating time to train or support a team member is an effective way to inspire, motivate, and retain valued staff.

#7 Who can I thank for a job well done?

Great leaders genuinely appreciate their teams, and they show it by putting them first. Workers who feel valued will always go the extra mile and are more likely to stay with the organization. According to research, the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio is 5.6. That works out at around six positive comments for every negative one [2].

Why Professional Purpose Matters for Leadership Development


Purpose matters to you and your team. It acts as a reminder of what is expected of each individual and the group. But do you ever feel less than confident, disconnected, empty, misdirected, or underappreciated? If yes, it’s time to self-reflect and activate or reactivate your reason for being.

Next, a brief overview of how leadership purpose differs from personal purpose.

Professional Vs. Personal Beliefs

Professional and personal purposes share some common values. That is, you believe your life matters, you’re here for a reason, and you can make a difference. Hence, your purpose gets you out of bed each morning and guides you through the day. The difference between professional and personal purposes is the driving factor.

Your educational and occupational goals, and career achievements define your professional purpose. However, your reason for being is more in tune with relationships, home, health, happiness, and material desires. And since 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has made having a purpose in life more important than ever.

Where Is My Leadership Purpose?

You can’t discover your professional purpose in books or other media; you have to create it. It must align with your hopes, values, and worldviews. It is the why of what you do and the reasons you do it. Once you discover this, it guides your actions during good times and, more importantly, times of intense, sudden, and unpredictable change.

Having a developed sense of purpose can steady and center you when everything feels in flux.

Leaders with strong purpose tend to sleep well and wake up ready to take on the day. They look forward to their job, are fulfilled by their work, and relish new challenges. That’s because they have a clear vision of what they need to do and how to achieve it. In short, a clear purpose impacts your scheduling and priorities and empowers you to get things done, making you stand out as a gifted leader.

State of Leadership Development
Study shows that 55% of organizations struggle with talent shortages. Yet only 36% of organizations admit their leadership development practices are between poor and average[3]. Here upwardly mobile employees should take the initiative in their professional development and start the conversation with their manager. We have strategies for how to sell your boss on investing in your professional development as a sound investment that benefits everyone.

How to Activate Your Professional Purpose

The most effective way to discover your real leadership purpose is to reflect on your life in four key quadrants. The secret here is to answer specific questions as if your work life is long behind you. The reason is that people over 65 reflect on their life more earnestly than younger generations. So, try to imagine you no longer work, then answer these questions honestly:

  • Did you realize all your career goals?
  • Would you have led the same way if you could turn the clock back?
  • How do you think your colleagues remember you?
  • What impact did you have on your teams; how did you make them feel?

Add a few more questions of your own if you want to, but keep the list relatively short and simple. Then, once you have your answers, work backward to create your unique professional purpose. The final outcome may surprise you.

Should Leaders Create Personal Purpose?

There are good reasons for leaders to create and engage their professional and personal purposes. Your professional drive helps you align workplace processes that set missions and achieve organizational goals. While your personal purpose has you act morally, show genuine care for your team, and thus build trust.

Moreover, working on your personal statement makes life and overall meaning even more controlled and fulfilling. It’s the same self-reflection process as the professional approach; only the questions you ask are different and more personal.

Here are some broad examples to get you thinking:

  • What do I love most (people, places, and things)?
  • What kind of things am I really good at?
  • What does the world need that I can provide?
  • What’s on my bucket list?
  • What are my favorite topics of conversation, and why?
  • Why is my best friend my best friend?
  • What was I most passionate about as a child?

Think happiness, relationships, passion, and giving. The personal question strategy has your mind wonder rather than wander, and that’s the point. And if you don’t have that now, you can work towards it or look for a position that aligns more closely with your core purposes. It matters because aligning personal and professional purposes motivates your staff as well as you to be more effective and happier at work.

How to Activate and Maintain Your Purpose

Finding your leadership purpose means nothing unless you align your actions with it. To do that, you must remain mindful and reign yourself in whenever you stray. Over time, it becomes your new natural way to think and act.

But what if you struggle to find your beliefs? We often struggle to step outside ourselves and see us the way others do, and that’s where non-compete peer support can help.

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Closing Comments on Leadership Purpose

Leadership purpose matters, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, nothing can change unless you do. And if the choices you make are not aligned with what matters to you most, then they’re not going to be the best decisions. We are what we do, and finding your true purpose helps drive your decisions and actions in the right direction.

  1. https://hbr.org/challenge-the-status-quo/
  2. https://hbr.org/praise-to-criticism-ratio/