Mission is about what you do for others. Vision is your own picture of success. While you need both, your followers will likely be more inspired by what you’re going to do for others together.


  • Mission: Why we are here, why we exist, what business we are in.
  • Vision: Future picture – what we want to become, where we are going.

This plays out in your messaging, flowing from CEOs, Executive Directors, Heads of School or the like who determine the overall problems their organizations exist to solve – what matters and why. By definition, mission-driven involves outside-in thinking. My partner, Ed Bancroft adds, “How missions credibly relate to greater societal issues, such as the environment, inequality, racial justice etc., make them even more inspiring.”


Then, heads of:

  • Strategy figure out how to win where the organization chooses to play.
  • Research and Development invent future solutions to those problems.
  • Manufacturing make things that solve those problems.
  • Distribution get those things to customers, clients or guests.
  • Service enhance customers, clients or guests’ experience.
  • Sales work directly with customers to solve their problems.
  • Marketing tell the stories.
  • General Counsels safeguard organizations’ licenses to operate.
  • Information Technology give people time to think.
  • Finance guide resource allocation.
  • Human Resources guide cultural evolution.


The more you can point your own message at the mission or at things that drive the mission, the more inspiring others will find it. They don’t care about you or your picture of success. They care what you’re going to do for them and help them get done for others.

We’ve run hundreds and hundreds of executive onboarding prep sessions over the last two decades to help new leaders create 100-day action plans. In those sessions, we help leaders think through their approach, stakeholders, messaging, and then plans leading up to and through their first 100-days. Inevitably, determining their message is a critical pivot point.

Leaders tend to come in planning to tell people about themselves or what they’re going to do or what they’re going to get done. Any of those is a recipe for making others hate you.

We push people to think through their real job – what their boss, organization, customers, clients, guests and communities need most from them. We also push them to think through why they were hired and why they accepted. This gets at how they should get done what they need to get done. Finally, we ask them to think through their platform for change, vision of a brighter future and call to action.

Their message and main communication points flow from those. The main idea behind the most effective messages almost always lines up behind one of the missions laid out at the top of this article. The specific words and communication points are as different as are the new leaders and the cultures and situations they are entering.



  1. Get clear on your real job and its mission-critical components, why you wanted this job in the first place and why they thought you were right for it, so you can focus on doing their job, their way.
  2. Think through your most important stakeholders – the target for your communication.
  3. Land on the critical platform for change – why those stakeholders can’t keep doing what they’re currently doing.
  4. Lay out a vision of a brighter future in which your stakeholders can picture themselves.
  5. Outline a call to action to help your stakeholders be part of the solution.
  6. Pull that together into a message headline – bumper-sticker length (1-5 words.) The idea should most likely match one of the mission-driven ideas from above. The specific words need to be your own and to fit with the organization’s culture.
  7. Play that out in three main message points. Use these and your message headline to guide and direct all your communication: what you say, what you do, and what you don’t say and don’t do.


This is one of the most important things you can do to keep from being one of the 40% of new leaders that fail in their first 100-days. Being mission-driven and communicating your desire to help can make all the difference in the world in how you influence and impact others going forward.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #732) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.