Mike Sayre – Leading with Purpose

In our ongoing series of blog posts about Inspirational Leaders, this post features Mike Sayre talking to a Capital University MBA class. Mike’s sense of vision and professional integrity has long provided a role model for many in the community. He is a regular speaker in my MBA class sharing his experiences with these emerging executives. Following is an excerpt from his inspirational presentation in his own words:

I only have one major point to make tonight…if you want people to follow your lead in and out of turbulent times, you need to lead consistently and decisively no matter what your business or the economy throws at you, and that all starts with tying why you work to why you live and your own personal purpose in life.

In March of 2006, I was asked to step up from my CFO role and take a bigger role in the company as its CEO, working arm and arm with the founder and chairman to develop and implement a new strategy for profitable growth. This was my first CEO job. And for all of my 25+ years of leadership experience starting and growing companies, I was not totally prepared for my new role! Somebody else had always been the CEO! Well, I learned an awful lot over those four years, in and out of turbulent times, while we achieved record earnings, expanded our operations into Europe and Asia and built a high performance organization highly acclaimed by some of the largest electronics manufacturing companies in the world!

Why was I unprepared and what did I do to successfully lead the organization in these unprecedented achievements for PDSi? I began to get it when my executive coach back in 2006, told me “You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself.” Then he pushed me, kicking and screaming, into writing my deepest feelings, thoughts and beliefs all out.  In several 2-6 hour intervals over a couple of months, I wrote, unfettered by form and content, about why I lived and why I worked…pages and pages, streaming thought processes that no one will ever read. This was for me and no one else and I gained clarity about my personal purpose I never had before.

Weeks after, I was asked about a mission and vision for the company. So I used the clarity that had come from my writings and to develop a simple philosophy card. The card spelled out a mission to improve the lives of our shareholders, customers, associates, suppliers and communities in which we live, a vision to be the best in the business at developing collaborative technology solutions for leading technology companies, and operating guidelines based on the Golden Rule of treating others like we would like to be treated. This process of writing it all out and then organizing and reducing it all down to fit on a small card absolutely aligned my work and my life and gave me a sense of my own personal purpose I never had before.

My basic DNA did not change! However, my level of understanding and passion about why I lived and worked, how we should work together and with others, giving back to the community and the importance of the alignment between my life and my work (a lot less balancing!) became very clear.

That understanding and passion made me ever more fully committed to my life and to my work as part of my life. I immediately empowered myself to prioritize work and family time, events and challenges as time and events in my life without trying to constantly “balance” between my work and my life! Sometimes work gets more time than family and sometimes family gets more time than work…it depends on what’s going on, but I look at it all as my life, not my life and then separately my work.

Another advantage of the card was that I/we could use it as a tool for consistent communications and decision-making. “Treating others like we’d like to be treated” had a way of making very difficult decisions much easier and quicker, taking less of a toll on the rest of my life.

So if you’ve never done it before, set aside meaningful time (ASAP) and fully answer in writing the following questions, without concern for form and content (just write and spend some time on it…):

  • Why do you live? Then keep asking yourself why you gave that answer and continue writing your answers in great detail (a minimum of 5 “whys”) until you get to the real core of your beliefs and motivations.
  • Why do you work? Same process with the minimum 5 “whys.”

Then, if you can’t tie why you are living to why you are working today, figure out how you get those two more in alignment! Give your life and your work more meaning and collapse them into one co-mingled set of priorities and challenges, rather than constantly striving to “balance” between them…be committed to BOTH and prioritize accordingly.

Do you have a personal purpose statement?  Our leadership coaches are available to help you explore your purpose and principles.  This is often the fist step in our leadership coaching process.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

1 reply
  1. Mike Figliuolo
    Mike Figliuolo says:

    Spot on Mike! Leading yourself is the first step in creating any successful leadership philosophy which in turn enables you to be a more effective leader. I see so many leaders skip this step of understanding themselves and they tend to founder when they do. I covered this exact topic a while back in this post: http://thoughtleadersllc.blogspot.com/2010/07/leadership-101-leading-yourself.html and I think you’ll see I’m hitting on exactly the same points. Thanks for sharing your story with the readers here. I know it really makes this concept come to life.


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