Positive Leadership: The Staff Series “Identifying My Purpose”

October 20, 2016

In Professor Robert Quinn’s book Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Results, he states that “The individuals, groups, teams, and organizations will not change until they can identify and embrace their potential, that is, really grasp what they are capable of achieving. This will not happen until one person, somewhere, makes a fundamental choice and begins to demonstrate a new way of being. This will result in new actions, words, and commitment.”  At the Positive Leadership Series for staff that was held last fall at the Ross School of Business, Professor Quinn shared the power of writing a life statement.  What follows is Melissa Lee’s response to that suggestion.

Name: Melissa Lee
Title:  Financial Associate Manager – Academic Programs
Number of Years at Ross: 11

1. Before you attended the sessions, what did you think you were going to gain from them?

Even after being at Ross for 11 years, I have had limited access to the faculty at the Center for Positive Organizations and heard about Positive Organizational Scholarship in passing, but I have never been formally introduced or exposed to it.  I am a person that loves socialization and I consider myself to be a positive person– there are fibers in me that seemed to resonate with what I heard about this topic, so my curiosity was peaked.

2. How would you explain/describe the experience of attending these sessions to a close friend or family member?

Professor Bob Quinn’s session on purpose was transformative for me!  In fact, I asked for a second workbook because there are people in my life who could specifically benefit from this material and I couldn’t wait to share it with them.  This session was very emotional for me as I always struggled with my passion/purpose versus my reality of what I needed to do to support myself and my family.  I was completely overwhelmed because I learned that without a defined purpose, I wasn’t living my best, authentic self.  I was existing (for survival) instead of living!!  I learned from Bob, that finding your purpose is a life long journey and as a result of this experience, every day I seek my purpose and (try to) do things that energize me and are closely aligned with my purpose.  You only get one shot at life, make it count!

Also, I realized during these sessions that we can be an influence on others who don’t naturally feel that they can be a positive leader.  Through this session, I was able to connect with my purpose (i.e., What are my personal values?), identify what energizes me, create unique opportunities for myself that allow me to thrive and seek to understand the opportunities created during times of challenge.  I realized that I have the ultimate control about what I want out of my life and what legacy I want to leave behind.

3. What did you take away and how do you see yourself applying what you learned into your everyday life?

 There were four specific take-a-ways.

  1. Identifying what my purpose is ties into my role at work but also plays a big part in my spiritual beliefs. This opens a door for me to be intentional about letting my purpose bubble up inside of me in a more spiritual way – being inspired and looking at life from a different perspective.
  2. How do I create a legacy? In thinking about my children, I reflect on how my influence (seeds) will be retained within them – being humorous and funny, expressing gratitude, living vs. existing.  I want to give back and allow my children to see a sense of contribution that comes naturally from living your authentic self and that they can learn to live intentionally as well. I’m thankful for tools to share with the ones I love to help them be their best selves.
  3. Monthly I create goals for myself in the areas of spiritual, family, fitness, financial, personal, and professional that support my authentic living and well-being . For example, I’m trying to help my children to be spiritually grounded by reading the Bible with deep feeling and expression.
  4. I am keeping a gratitude journal.

4. What constitutes a positive work environment?

I believe there can be a struggle to implement a positive work environment because when most people come to work, they don’t feel in the mood to engage in “positive leadership”.  One way to address that is to create a sub-group of people that believe in the positive leadership elements who seek to teach, train and expose others (colleagues, departments) to these lessons.   This effort supports the School’s positivity pillar and creates a supportive culture where we can thrive as individuals, colleagues and departments.  It is imperative that we are able to trust each other with information and feedback, and to be empowered to make decisions and have them be supported.

Finally, supporting personal development, progressive development, and action-based learning promotes a positive work environment.


There is a challenge when we encounter others around us who are not keen about this approach of positive organizational scholarship, who may even laugh about it.  It can be difficult to not be deflated by this approach.  However, the description and implementation of a positive work culture and climate is part of my make-up, and I will continue to use the tools provided to help me thrive!

If you would like to discover how to be a more effective and positive leader, we highly recommend that you read the book How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact, edited by Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer.

Positive Leadership: The Staff Series is a group of interviews capturing staff reflections after participating in the Positive Leadership Workshops.