Finding Mission in Omission: Getting Clear on What to Leave Behind

small part of lemon being cut off

by Matt Dierdorff

Sculpting is the art of removing what is unnecessary to reveal what is profound. The white space in a painting or photograph gives depth to the subject. It is the “rest” in the midst of the musical composition that allows the melody to stand out. In leadership it is often the act of omission which gives rise to meaningful mission.Not only are there important things we simply cannot do, there are important things we should not do.

When we stretch, dilute and compromise our mission because we are wooed by “the next big thing”, we claim a lesser voice in the arena which is truly ours. Leadership requires clarity, and there is no clarity where omission is absent. In this regard maybe our “no” is just as significant as our “yes” and those we lead are empowered when we eliminate the distractions of the callings which are not ours to answer.

Perhaps this begins in our personal or organizational mission statements. Maybe it is time to bring a bit of white space to our objectives, chiseling away seven of the eight contributions we’ve vowed to bring to the world. For someone else, the virtue of omission will be manifest in a daily or weekly schedule. How would the “musical score” of your calendar look if you emphasized the crucial, and most beautiful notes by replacing some of the less dynamic tones with rests instead? There is indeed much to be said and much to be done, but that is why there are generations upon generations and billions in each generation. Maybe each of us are meant for a few simple, but grand, yes’s. And perhaps the trick is in knowing what must remain and what must go the way of the sculptor’s blade.

How can one drive mission through omission?

– Decide to carve off 10% of the tasks you perform each week. You won’t miss them. In fact you will wonder why you have been investing in them all this time.

– Read over your personal or organizational mission statement. Begin writing it out while omitting a word or phrase. Is there a way it can be rewritten to focus in on a few grand “yes’s”?

– Trim your meetings. Maybe this means deleting a few entirely, or it may just mean chiseling the content down. We feel obliged to do certain things when we are seated around a conference table. Maybe we inherited those aspects of our meetings or perhaps they slowly just became expected meeting culture over time. What can be sliced from the agenda so that other aspects gain prominence and attention?

About the author

Matt consistently works with staff teams to help them reach clarity on their mission and link arms in meaningful ways, using the unique contributions each team member brings to the group. Contact him at for more information on bringing Matt to partner with your staff team.