WARNING: Don’t Try to Lead Without Ikigai

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According to the Japanese concept of ikigai, everyone needs a reason for living. The French call it “raison d’être.” Literally “reason to be.” But no matter how you say it, you cannot lead without it.

Every leader needs a reason for living and leading. At Align4Profit we have always insisted that every leader we train come to our program with a Leadership Credo.

That’s because, before you can lead anyone, you have to know yourself, believe in yourself, and lead yourself. Having a reason for your life and a Leadership Credo for your work give you the confidence and conviction to lead yourself and others.


ikigai venn diagram That’s where ikigai can help. The Japanese system, (生き甲斐 ee-kee-GUY) organizes a quartet of forces that all leaders must manage in order to manage themselves. These forces are identified in the four outer of the circles of the venn diagram.

Everyone, including you as a leader, feels these forces. Notice how when combined, overlapping in the diagram, “What I love to do” and “What the world needs” combine to define your Mission. But as I discussed in Passion or Service. How do you labor?, we sometimes have to choose between, or at least balance, what we love to do and what others need.

According to the ikigai diagram, what’s needed and what you can get paid to do equal your Vocation, which is opposite “What I love to do” and “What I do well,” which make up your Passion.

Passion and Mission often compete for our personal devotion as do Mission and Vocation, Vocation and Profession, Profession and Passion.

What’s your ikigai?

Clearly illustrated, then, when you can bring together all four forces that compete for your attention into something the world needs, you love to do, you are good at, and you can get paid to do, you have achieved ikigai.

Finding and achieving ikigai demand deep and sometimes lengthy self searching. It requires honest evaluation of yourself, uncolored by your own prejudices and assumptions about yourself.

Find your ikigai

For a clear and candid evaluation of yourself as a leader, allow me to recommend our Leadership Attraction Profile. To learn more about how this works, why not try our obligation-free, Mini-LAP.

Then you can move on to creating your Leadership Credo at our CoachQuest Leader-as-Coach Program. There you will learn and practice the leadership skills you need to address alongside leaders like you from other organizations with many of the same challenges. Learn more about CoachQuest.

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Helanie Scott
Helanie Scott
Helanie (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Scott, CEO and founder of Align4Profit in Dallas, Texas, has driven stunning leadership and cultural transformations for an impressive list of organizations. She has mastered the ability to connect with her audiences in the boardroom, classroom, on stage, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. Helanie’s Align4Profit clients rave at the way her engaging programs freshen outdated mindsets and deliver results-oriented, aligned action.