“The mission is what you exist for, and everything is secondary to the mission. The mission is what will take people up the hill. … The mission has to be driven down through every level of the organization so everybody understands what we are trying to accomplish and is committed to its accomplishment. ”  The are the words of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. ”

As Colin Powell said, mission is one of the most important things you can have. It wakes you up at 5am when everyone else is sleeping (this is how I am ever writing this post), it helps you focus intensely on things when focusing seems impossible, and it keeps you optimistic even when everyone else tells you know.

In business school having a mission is critical. Because there are too many distractions and often times too much clutter. And then when you see half your class get swept up in the herd affect it’s hard not to go with them.

The same is true in law school. People all study for the same reason, to get the best grades, to make it to the best firm, to take on that big firm associate title, that half the class doesn’t even like. You see it happen every single year.

And it’s even more true in the startup and nonprofit worlds. When resources are limited. Skeptics are unlimited. And time is running out by the day. And you have to worry about what to do when you run out of funds.

So how do you avoid that? How do you focus on what’s right? How do you stay true to your mission? And how do you focus on it when all your incentives tell you to do something different?

I propose that the best leaders know how to do this and that they are intensely focused on the core mission. The know it. Breathe it. Live it.  Because without it, you just might get swept away.

So what is your mission?

If you don’t know yet, then I propose that you do your best to have a better sense before going back to school. Or before trying to start your next big movement.

CLICK HERE for my old post on business plans. In short, missions are better than business plans.

Saturday, February 18th, 2012 Leadership

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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