When our daughter Vanessa was a teenager, we hired her to do some after school general administrative support work at The CLEMMER Group offices. She was happy to earn an hourly wage for a variety of tasks. One of her jobs was typing selected passages from articles and book summaries for entry in my research library.
One evening she came home very frustrated. I asked her what the problem was. “Today, I spent three hours typing text and then found out that it had already been done.” Knowing that this had been the result of some miscommunication (from me, actually), I consoled her: “You will still be paid for all your work.” “Yeah,” she agreed sourly, “but I hate doing useless work.”
We all hate doing useless work. We’re energized by meaningful work. We want to make a buck, but it’s not the same as making a difference. In The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life’s Journey, William Bennett writes, “the search for meaning is intrinsic to human nature. As thinking creatures, we want to understand why we find ourselves on this road and where the journey is taking us.”
Some managers have developed mission statements, visions, or slogans. I have a closet full of shirts from numerous management conferences, adorned with snazzy logos and clever catchphrases. Some of the aspirational statements were actually believed by the participants (at the time, anyway). But most weren’t. The taglines added a nice pizzazz to the conference but didn’t express anything credible to participants. The upbeat, gung-ho slogan didn’t reflect the organization’s true culture and was soon snickered down or forgotten — until the planning committee started looking at next year’s conference.
High-performance organizations pull together the intangible leadership principles that define their character and rally people around a deeper sense of purpose. This is the heart part of leadership. The hard part of management is making these powerful feelings tangible through strong implementation of management processes and systems that translate ideas into action.
Tomorrow, we publish my October blog posts in the November issue of The Leader Letter. This issue starts with a vital self-assessment; are you leading on purpose? Can you answer the five questions on whether purpose is at the core of your strategy with a resounding yes?
There aren’t any quick and easy ways to build purposeful, heartful, leadership. We ran out of magical leadership tonic. But you will find five ways to hone your leadership edge drawn from our decades of seeing the good, the bad, and the extraordinary. These approaches are the framework of my complimentary webinar on November 20. Or you can use the questions posed as a leadership check-up.
You’ll also find a review, summary, and key thoughts from Neil Pasricha’s new book just out this month. Neil gets to the heart of personal resilience. He shows how we can step back and focus on the bigger picture during difficult changes or tough times. Carving out the time to cut through the chaos and anchoring back to our own purpose is a vital part of that.
Queen bees emit a substance that keeps the hive together. It’s sometimes called “the spirit of the hive.” Few of us can sit around strictly as queen bees — although it is a tempting thought! We need to be worker bees as well. It’s a balance issue. As we work in our team or organization, we also need to contribute a deeper sense of meaning or purpose. If we’re going to be leaders, we must build the spirit of our team or organization.
This leadership comes from our own center. I can only contribute the spirit and meaning that I feel. I need to lead with all my heart and soul.