What We Can Learn From Joe Biden About Purpose

user Andrew Blum

Regardless of your political persuasion or orientation, it would be difficult to not admire Joe Biden’s journey. No one else in the public setting has persevered longer or suffered more setbacks and bone-crushing losses, and at the advanced age of 78, Joe stood up and won the Presidency on his third try. There is a lot to learn from him. What I take away from Joe Biden’s journey is the power of purpose. There is no question that he is driven by a deep sense of purpose that transcends his personal life circumstances and perhaps even his personal ambitions.

As we move into 2021, I invite all leaders to cultivate a similar level of clarity and intent around your purpose. We often talk about purpose-based and mission-driven organizations, however, when I ask leaders to answer the question, “What is your purpose?”, most don’t have a crisp answer. This is in part because organizational missions are more generalized and not as applicable to one’s personal purpose.

In reflecting on your personal purpose, there are two things that need to be understood and developed in detail. This is not so much about a single statement that declares your purpose, but rather a description that answers the following question: What is my Service and what is the Craft I practice that enables me to contribute in a meaningful way?

Here is how I define Service and Craft:

Service is the value you create in the world, who you serve, and the benefits you create for them.

Craft is the day-to-day art you practice in order to deliver that service.

You can see very clearly that Joe Biden believes in service. While we all agree that politics is a messy place these days, most people “serve” in these positions because there is an intention to create greater good. The greater good Joe speaks about is worthy of his 47 years of unyielding service and has within it the power to inspire self and others. Each one of us, regardless of our role, has an opportunity to reframe our efforts through the lens of service. In some way, we are all servant leaders and it is up to you to define how that manifests in your leadership.

In considering Joe Biden’s craft, politics is, in truth, multiple crafts. There are skills and ways of being and operating that get one elected into office. There is the craft of governing, legislation, organization, and, most importantly – the craft of leadership. These are highly refined skillsets and I personally believe it’s the reason we have so many people in their 70’s in high-profile government roles. It takes a lifetime of practicing these crafts to operate at that level and you cannot be successful without being a master of your craft. In every role, there are unique skills that enable success and can be consciously refined. The best leaders in the world view leadership as a craft unto itself and constantly work on their craft.

As you head into 2021, rather than asking “What is my purpose?”, start by answering these questions:

Service: Who am I serving? What dynamic am I correcting or protecting in my service? What is possible through my service for me and for others?

Craft: What are the various disciplines that my service requires of me? What are the nuanced day-to-day skills involved in each of those disciplines? How do I better myself and enable my service?

Work and purpose, when viewed through the lens of service and craft, is in some ways a radical paradigm shift that has the potential to fundamentally change your relationship with your work. Through this new lens, work becomes meaningful and personal, and instead of being something I have to do, it becomes something I get to do. I know from personal experience that when I view a task as a privilege rather than a burden, not only am I happier and more grateful, I am more conscious of the gift that work offers to all of us. Service and craft last a lifetime and can be anchors in the roughest of seas. We all hope that 2021 will be a better year than 2020, but we still have a long road ahead.

Now is a good time for a new narrative and paradigm that will enable you to be your best in the coming year.

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