Is Your Purpose Clearly Defined?


Dr. Alan Woodward shares a personal story to help leaders become more authentic and more effective.

On my first visit to Houston after my tumor diagnosis, I listened very carefully to my physicians. I did not want to miss a word. Most of all, I wanted to know what kind of tumor I had and what their plan was to deal with it. I wanted to know the purpose behind their treatment plan. Instead they gave me parameters. First, they had to identify the type of cancer. Then they had to determine which treatment would be the most effective. A huge answer to prayer came a few days later when the identification was Lymphoma and not Glioblastoma. That meant the average life expectancy was 7-8 years instead of 18 months. Trial studies and the location of my tumor had ruled out the options of surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy was the only choice they had.

We see some powerful leadership principles from the M. D. Anderson medical staff we can follow. One, they are constantly researching cancer to learn what is not yet known. I love their advertisement that has the word cancer lined out! Two, they are reluctant to make promises they cannot keep. I wanted to know if I could be cured and when. They could not give me the answer I sought. Instead they helped me focus on a different purpose: to seek the best route that would lead to quality of life, not just quantity, and then to wait and see how my body responded to the medicine. They really got me to shift my attention to the process they would follow instead of quantifying the number of years I would live. Was that easy for me to hear? No! But it was freeing. I did not leave with delusions about my future. In fact the truth freed me to move ahead with confidence.

As leaders, we can profit from this story. We need to keep learning. We need to avoid promises we cannot keep. We need to help people focus on realistic purposes for their lives so they can be free to pursue them instead of living in disillusionment.

By Dr. Alan Woodward

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