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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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The evolving answer to the question: why am I here?

A vital aspect of an individual’s vertical development is to understand and live their ‘personal purpose’. It’s the answer to the existential question: Why am I here?  If you ask someone to consider this question, most respond by describing their job, their role at work or say something about supporting their family. None of these are really purpose. Purpose is the unique guiding principle of your life. It is present even if you are unaware of it.

Our personal purpose is especially visible when we’re not sure what to do. We might intuitively feel what the right answer is and that feeling is probably coming from a fundamental feature of our lives. For example, you might get two job offers and you just know that one is right. It just ‘feels’ better than the other. The reason is it’s closer to the ‘true north’ of your internal compass – the personal purpose that steers your life.

I do a lot of work with clients to help them identify and live truer to personal purpose, and it’s also been an aspect of my development that has given me tremendous value. One feature I’ve noticed about personal purpose is that it is not static; it evolves throughout your life as you move up to the next level of development. Developing vertically means you transform on the inside and your sense of ‘self’ changes. The natural consequence of this is that your purpose evolves too. When this happens, you don’t abandon what came before; you transcend and include it to become a more mature version of yourself.

Let me share my experience of a shifting personal purpose, it may just resonate with you… 


My shifting personal purpose

Until October last year, my personal purpose was: ‘I discover ideas’. I am driven by an intense curiosity about the world, how it works and what makes people tick. This shows up in my work as a coach helping other people discover ideas about themselves. It also shows up in my love of science-fiction and my bookcase housing a wide range of non-fiction titles that all feed my love of ideas. My personal purpose is evident in all parts of my life.

During 2013, I increasingly felt that my existing personal purpose no longer explained why I am here – there was now more to it. My new personal purpose evolved through personal reflection, conversations with colleagues and eventually crystallised during a meditation exercise in October 2013, when I was in a particularly open and receptive state.

My personal purpose is now: ‘I catalyse evolution’. It is still rooted in the need to discover ideas, but wrapped around that is a desire to use the conceptual frame to make a noticeable difference in the world. This has lifted my coaching to another level where I can be far more catalytic in my clients’ personal development. And my love of science-fiction has evolved into writing a story myself with the intention of provoking a new perspective in the reader.

In my work with clients are further examples of personal purpose evolving to a more sophisticated version. One client shifted from ‘I provide’ to ‘I care’, which allowed him to relax the need to provide for everyone and focus more on how what he provided expressed his care for others. Another’s purpose was ‘I build solutions’ and became ‘I design systems’, enabling her to step back and empower others to solve problems within a framework.


Articulating your personal purpose

Take a moment now to consider your personal purpose. Look at your life and think about those ‘crossroad’ moments of key decisions – how did you know what was ‘right’? Also consider the peak experiences in your life, when you were totally absorbed and felt at your best. In those moments your purpose is often most fully lived.

Imagine the timeline of your life. Looking back, what have been the significant turning points that fundamentally changed you? What does that imply about previous versions of your purpose? How have they transcended and included each other? Moving to the present and looking forward, how are you developing now? What are the implications for your purpose? How is it evolving and what might the next version be?

Very few people ever articulate their personal purpose. If you do, the benefits are greater clarity about what matters and where to apply your energy. It will massively augment your motivation and focus your prioritisation. When you live purposefully, everything has more meaning, is more enjoyable and creates more energy. When your internal compass is strongly magnetised to your ‘true north’, life becomes easier.

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Alan Littlefield

Alan Littlefield has spent more than fifteen years of his career in HR and leadership development. Alan also has extensive experience facilitating team development across a broad range of clients, sectors and geographies.

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