Purpose in Leadership 2 Years Later

Blog, Dimitar Nikolov

Photo Credit: Blog, By Dimitar Nikolov, Flickr

This week marks a bit of an anniversary for Purpose in Leadership. I began blogging two years ago.

Two years later I’m taking in the same view of Skagit Valley I was the day I set up the blog site and posted my first reflection (see: Perspectives on Prosperity for Leadership).

Top Post Themes

It’s been a fun journey that has included 138 posts so far and provides a place to engage a number of key topics. Among the top themes engaged by visitors are:

Reflections & Next Steps

As most anniversaries, this one provides a time to celebrate and reflect.

I celebrate Purpose in Leadership a place to pull together thoughts on topics about which I care deeply. I celebrate a place to share insights with current and former students. I celebrate the opportunity to connect with a wider network of readers.

I am not a daily blogger, but one thing I’ve learned along the way is that blogging is work. Regular blogging takes intentionality, ongoing learning, and time. I have a great deal of respect for those who have been doing this for more years than I have been blogging.

Even thought it has been work, work takes on meaning when it is connected to what we love and when it provides value to others. I hope these labors have been a blessing to some of the readers who follow along regularly. We’ll see where the journey leads in the coming months and years!

Purpose in Leadership on Patheos

Faith-Work

I’m excited to point you toward another channel through which I’ll be sharing thoughts. The Purpose in Leadership blog was invited to join the Patheos Faith and Work Channel, and this will allow me to share the type of reflections offered on this blog with a wider audience. I’ll continue to post regularly through both Purpose in Leadership blogs.

—  Purposeinleadership.com Blog
—  Patheos Purpose in Leadership Blog

As a faith-based blog channel focused on the integration of faith and work, I will be regularly sharing posts on leadership, work, and vocation.

Here is a highlight of the last five posts shared through the Purpose in Leadership blog on Patheos. Enjoy!

#9 … Top Posts from 2015 — Remembering A Life Well-Lived

 

C. Mervin Russell

In a previous post I shared some observations on my top blogs posts from 2015 [link]. In the coming weeks I will be taking time both to share new content and to share some of the top viewed posts from the past year.

The #9 post from 2015 was …

A Life Well-Lived:
Remembering My Grandfather, Dr. Charles Mervin Russell

My grandfather, Dr. Charles Mervin Russell, passed away at 93 years of age in January of 2015. On the heels of our family’s memorial service remember Grandpa’s life, I wanted to take some time to think about what his life meant to me and so many others.

These reflections led me to reflect on a passage from the Bible in Hebrews 13:7

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith
.”

Grandpa Russell’s life was indeed a life well-lived. Grandpa’s life was a gift to me. And, based on the number of individuals that took time to engage with this post, there are many others who were blessed by him as well — both directly and indirectly.

I invite you to join me, one year later, in reflecting again on a life well lived, and then considering how his life may be an example for us in the days ahead.

Here’s a link to the Purpose in Leadership #9 post from 2015:

A Life Well-Lived:
Remembering My Grandfather, Dr. Charles Mervin Russell

#10 … Top Posts from 2015 — Strategic Foresight

In-the-middle-of-nowhere_Brian-Koprowski

Photo Credit: In the middle of nowhere, by Brian Koprowski, Flickr

In a previous post I shared some observations on my top blogs posts from 2015. In the coming weeks I will be taking time both to share new content and to share some of the top viewed posts from the past year.

The #10 post from 2015 was …

Strategic Foresight:
The Past, Present, and Future Focus of Leadership

This was one of two posts on strategy that made the top ten in 2015. In the article, I argue that in light of the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world we live in, it is a mandate for leaders to learn from the past and present and look to the future with strategic foresight.

Strategic Foresight

Clarity and foresight are essential leadership characteristics. Organizations and teams need leaders who can see clearly in the midst of confusing organizational and environmental realities.

THE VUCA WORLD

We are increasingly experiencing what some refer to as a “VUCA” world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. More than ever, we need leaders with vision, clarity, and foresight.

What do leaders need to do in light of such a world?

Read more about the need for leaders to engage with strategic foresight in Purpose in Leadership’s #10 post from 2015. Here’s the link to continue reading…

Strategic Foresight:
The Past, Present, and Future Focus of Leadership

Top 10 Posts from 2015

Gold top 10 winner

Photo Credit: Gold top 10 winner, by Sam Churchill, Flickr

It is always fascinating to see which posts drew the most attention from the previous year. Not only is this simply interesting data to see, but it also is extremely helpful in receiving feedback on what you and other readers of this blog find valuable and interesting. Providing valuable and meaningful resources is what motivates me in this journey.

In this brief post I’d like to engage two areas:

  • First, I’d like to share a few thoughts about what’s ahead for this blog in 2016.
  • Second, I’d like to share some broad observations about the Top 10 Posts from 2015 before sharing them with commentary in the coming weeks.

Looking Ahead to Blogging in 2016

As I launch into another year of blogging, I have several thoughts that stand out.

First, blogging takes effort! I have a new respect for other bloggers and the work they put into their reflections. Blogs like this don’t just happen. They take time, energy, and thought. It is work, but I count it a labor of love.

Second, the effort is worth it for me because of three convergent reasons:

  1. I enjoy the process of learning and writing so these reflections, though work, represent enjoyable work for me.
  2. Blogging helps to keep me fresh in thinking through important topics related to leadership and life. Rather than simply relying on previous study and reflection, this blog is helping me to keep my reading and reflection in the area of leadership fresh.
  3. I find great joy with something I enjoy doing that also provides value for others. It is encouraging to hear how many of the blog posts this past year have been helpful for those who care deeply about engaging their work and leadership with purpose and meaning.

Finally, now that I’ve had over a year of weekly posts, I think I’m ready to start moving to two posts a week on this platform. Part of this arises out of wanting to both create new content as well as highlight themes from last year’s top posts. I now have topics for posts mapped out through early spring, and will likely settle into a pattern of sharing one new post each week and then utilizing a second post to engage past themes and/or seasonal topics.

Looking Back on Blogging in 2015

As I look back on the top posts from 2015, there are some interesting observations to highlight.

First, Drawing from the top 10 most viewed posts in 2015, five of these posts were published in 2015 and five were published in 2014. In other words, not only were new posts of interest to readers, but previous posts from 2014 continued to receive engagement.

Second, of the five posts published in 2014, three of these were also the top three posts read in 2014. The interest in these posts in 2014 continued into 2015.

Finally, the posts covered a wide variety of topics. Here is an example of the wide range of topics covered in the top posts from 2015:

  • Strategy (two posts on this theme)
  • Vision
  • Teams
  • Change
  • Communication
  • Servant leadership
  • Vocational Discernment
  • Marriage Lessons
  • A Tribute to a Life Well-Lived

Sharing these Top Posts

Though I plan to mix new posts with reflections on these top posts from 2015, I intend to share these top posts that received significant engagement in the past year. I hope both the new posts in 2016 and the top posts from 2015 will continue to empower and equip you as a reader with valuable lessons from life and engaged with purpose.

Thanks  for your part in this journey!

6 Insights from My First Year of Blogging

Blogging, by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

Blogging, by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

Here are 6 insights from my first year of blogging on my Purpose in Leadership site. Though I began blogging midway through 2014, this first month of 2015 has led me to pause and think through some of the key lessons I have learned from blogging in 2014.

Certainly there is great value in learning from seasoned bloggers. I appreciate the many insights I find in the writing of veteran bloggers. A fresh set of eyes is also helpful. Because of this, I offer the following insights on blogging from my vantage point as a “newbie”, and hopefully bring some fresh perspective into the conversation.

Here are my top 6 Insights from My First Year of Blogging:

Insight 1 — Getting Started & Building Up Content

A friend advised me early on to build up content quickly. In other words, if you are just beginning your blog, try to work ahead and build up a dozen or so posts before launching. In addition to this, when you do launch, focus on regular posting as you continue to build up a foundation of quality content.

For me, regular posting meant that I sought to post daily for about the first two months of my blog. Everyone’s capacity is different. Perhaps you will be able to maintain daily posts indefinitely. Perhaps daily posting is not realistic for you, even from the start. The key is to find a workable pace that you are able to sustain for at least an initial season of time. Not only does this help you gain familiarity with the format as a blogger, it also helps to position your blog meaningfully in relationship to how search engines operate. Here is a helpful guide to search engine optimization.

Insight 2 — Maintaining Momentum & Finding a Sustainable Pace

After an initial push of getting started and building up content, it is important to maintain the momentum that was started and find a sustainable pace. Although daily posts were a priority for me early in the blogging journey, daily posts were not sustainable in light of all the opportunities and demands in my life.

One of my personal commitments early on was I wanted to maintain blogging as an enjoyable part of my life rather than it becoming a burden. This blog is not my job—it is not what I do for a living. Rather, it is something that I do because I enjoy it. Part of maintaining joy in blogging is finding the right pace. At the start, I really enjoyed the process of writing and posting daily. As the demands on my life increased in the fall, both in terms of my work life and home life, I knew that I needed to pull back from daily posting. Though my posting was sporadic after my initial launch and initial two months, I have settled into a pattern of weekly posting. This pace keeps me engaged with something that I enjoy doing, and but does so in a sustainable manner. This pace will likely change in the future again, but the key is to find a pace that maintains joy in the blogging journey.

Insight 3 — Keeping it Fresh & Timely

In terms of the content engaged in my posts, there are a couple key insights I’d like to offer. First, I find that blogging comes most naturally when I keep it fresh and share it in a timely manner. What do I mean by this? My content is most meaningful to me and readers when I am writing on material I am currently engaging.

Practically speaking, this means that I often am blogging about things I am reading about and reflecting upon currently. When it is fresh on my mind and when it is something that I am currently engaging in my reading and study, it provides a helpful base from which to draft meaningful blog posts. Doing this helps create energy for me in the writing process and seems to be helpful for readers as well.

Insight 4 — Focusing on Topics of Interest

Although I do not have a large history of statistics from which to draw for analysis, what I’m finding in the data is helpful. From 2014, the following categories drew the most engagement from readers: Personal Development, Leadership, and Organizational Strategy. Individuals and leaders are drawn toward writing that helps them think about their personal development. Additionally, topics such as leading change, communicating well as leaders, and understanding organizational vision were also themes that drew interest.

Leadership is a broad topic, and thus the blog posts can go any number of directions. As I think through potential topics for the future, I want to engage not only what is interesting for me to write, but also what is actually helpful for readers. Looking at categories and topics that demonstrate higher engagement helps me to know what is most helpful for future posts. Although there are other factors that will be considered as I land on future posts, I am aiming to be responsive to what readers find meaningful and helpful.

Insight 5 — Making Your Posts Attractive

At the end of the day, I think the content of blog posts is more important than format. However, making a blog site and blog posts attractive and reader-friendly is a helpful practice. Here are some of the basic principles I’ve observed on this front in my first year of blogging. First, find a picture that is attractive and on topic to include with your post. Flickr’s creative commons (https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/) is a helpful source for photos, though you will want to become familiar with the various standards associated with using creative commons photos. A well-selected photo, or better yet a photo that you have taken that is on topic, can significant add to reader engagement with your blog.

Second, use formatting that helps your reader easily follow the logic and big ideas you are sharing in your posts. For me, this translates into using subheadings that are bolded for readers, a sparing amount of italicized words and phrases for emphasis, and the use of bullet points or enumerated lists.

  1. Lists provide a way for readers to quickly see the points you are making.
  2. Lists force you as a writer to decide on crisp expression of your ideas.
  3. Lists provide a visual tool to break up standard prose.

Third, and similar to the point above regarding bullet points and enumerated lists, bringing a list-based structure into both the outline and heading of the blog post helps reader engagement.  Though the use of lists may be a passing trend in blogs, it is quite helpful in drawing attention to the core ideas you wish to communicate. Three of my top five posts from 2014 were titled around lists (37 Barriers to Change, 7 Levels of Leadership Communication, and 6 Characteristics of Organizations with Vision). Also, as you may already have noticed, I have used a list-based structure for this blog post as well in order to model the practice.

Though format is not the main thing in blogging—content is—formatting will help your readers show up and meaningfully engage the quality content you are putting together in your blog.

Insight 6 — Keeping Focus & Engaging Globally

Finally, I recommend keeping focused (though with global breadth). It is helpful to maintain focus in a blog. What is your area of expertise? What is it that you are able to write about with passion and purpose? How you answer these questions provides a focus to a blog. For me, leadership is the unifying focus in my blog. Though I will occasional venture out into something on the peripheral side of things (e.g., posting pictures from a recent trip to NYC), my focus for the blog is leadership. This is the area in which I have some measure of expertise, and it is the area of focus I want readers to associate with the blog.

In addition to keeping focus, I also want to write on this focused topic of leadership in a way that meaningfully connects with a broad and global audience. One of the joys in this first year of blogging is seeing the amazing people I have begun to connect with because of the blog.

It was quite a surprise to read an overview of 2014 stats on this front. In 2014, individuals from around 94 countries engaged with the Purpose in Leadership blog. Topping this list of 94 countries were individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, and Kenya. What an amazing reality—that blogging provides a platform for communicating with such a broad audience.


I hope some of these insights are helpful for you as you think about either your current blog or one that you may potentially start in the future. Thanks for being a part of the Purpose in Leadership community.

Top 5 Blog Posts from 2014

2014 was my first year entering the blogging world on the writing end. This new year marks my 15th year teaching in higher education, and this blog has been a great place for me to share some of the core lessons learned over the years. Blogging is a helpful pathway for sharing insights in a brief and accessible format. I have enjoyed learning a bit about blogging this first year, sharing reflections on leadership, and connecting with a many new people through this format.

As I look back on my first year of blogging, here is a list of the Top 5 Blog Posts from 2014. Feel free to take a look at these posts that drew the most attention from Purpose in Leadership readers.

Top 5 Posts from 2014

  1. 37 Barriers to Change 

    Barrier 4 - Love Wins, by hji, Flickr

    Barrier 4 – Love Wins, by hji, Flickr

  2. 7 Levels of Leadership Communication

    Communication, by elycefeliz, Flickr

    Communication, by elycefeliz, Flickr

  3. Groups vs. Teams: What’s the Difference?

    Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept, Scott Maxwell, Flickr

    Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept, Scott Maxwell, Flickr

  4. Leader Resiliency … Face Reality, Find Meaning, Forge a New Path

    by Arya Aiai, Flickr

    by Arya Aiai, Flickr

  5. 6 Characteristics of Organizations with Vision

    mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

    mind_scratch, Ultima visión, Flickr

Thanks for taking an interest in the Purpose in Leadership blog, and I hope some of the blog posts in 2014 were helpful to you.

Blessings to you as we press into 2015 together!

– Justin A. Irving, Ph.D.