Early in my career, I worked in a company led by an inspiring and emotionally intelligent CEO. He often said, “If you love what you’re doing, you never have to work again.” I loved that idea. Most of us hate work. It’s a four-letter word. Hard work is why I left our family farm. Whenever a job began to feel like work, I quit.
Fortunately, that’s only been a few times in my career. I’ve put decades of long hours into my career without really working.
Leadership researcher, author, and professor, Warren Bennis, once concluded, “A basic ingredient of leadership is passion — the underlying passion for the promises of life, combined with a very particular passion for a vocation, a profession, a course of action. The leader loves what he or she does and loves doing it.”
To be effective energy leaders, our work can’t be work. When we align making a living with making a life, our work is joy.
Looking for Love
Energized and energizing leaders are in love with the organization, community, or team that they work or live in. Their love is expressed in a deep desire to see that organization, community, or team grow to its full potential. These leaders love the people they work with enough to contribute to their growth and development.
To energize and engage others — to help them love their work — we need to either find the work we love or learn to love the work we have. If our current job isn’t energizing us, we have four choices:
- Do nothing and wish for our fairy job mother to magically appear and energize our work.
- Move out of a leadership role and play to our strengths and passions in other ways, such as technical or advisory roles.
- Figure out what our personal vision, values, and purpose are and transform our current job into our life work.
- Envision our ideal job and find or create it.
Take Your Passion Pulse
Leaders have a passion for life and a deep commitment to their work or cause (often the same thing). Passion is pumped from the heart. It is the life energy that circulates through our lives.
Our passion for what we do — or our lack of it — tells us if we’re in the right place. To be passionate about our work, that work keeps moving us ever closer to expressing who we truly are. The more closely “who we are” is aligned with “what we do,” the deeper our passion and commitment.
Click on Taking My Passion Pulse for a short quiz to check your life and leadership vitals.
Getting Aroused and Falling in Love
If your passion pulse is weak, here are some ways you might rekindle passion for your work:
- The past few decades of strengths research clearly shows a strong and causal connection between using our strengths, happiness, and life/leadership effectiveness. To identify your strengths, you could:
- Follow the links at Leverage Your Strengths to the VIA Institute on Character’s VIA (Values In Action) survey based on 24 universal character strengths.
- Use many of the strength finder tools available online and in books.
- Brainstorm a list of strengths. Pick the top five that resonate most with you.
- Clarify your core values. Identify and articulate your top 3 to 5 personal values.
- Check the alignment of your strengths and values with your work using a rating scale for each strength and core value.
- Take the short quiz Purposely Connected or Meaninglessly Working?
- If your work needs realignment, talk with your boss, colleagues, coach, or mentor about your values and strengths and what you’d like to change to work in your strengths and passion zone.
- Don’t worry about your weaknesses unless they are “fatal flaws” seriously holding you back. Focus on your strengths and how to align all aspects of your life with them.
- Find a complementary partner in your business, on your team, or in your personal life, whose strengths are your weaknesses. Work together to balance each other. This won’t always be easy or conflict-free. Practice give and take based on heart-to-heart connections around your shared vision, values, and purpose.
- If you’re a sumo wrestler, don’t waste time trying to be a ballerina. Don’t allow others to “should on you” by making you feel guilty about your weaknesses (if they are not fatal flaws) and telling you what you should do. Do what aligns with your values, strengths, and passions.
- Ensure you take vacations and regular time off to recharge your batteries and keep your life in balance.
- Physical fitness plays a big role in our emotions. If you need to get into shape, consider hiring a personal trainer, getting nutritional counseling, joining a weight management program based on lifestyle change (not fad diets), find a “fitness buddy,” join a gym or recreational club.
- Reward yourself for reaching milestones along the way. Build a sense of progress, momentum, and gratitude.
- Address conflicts or Moose-on-the-Table issues that may be getting in the way of your job satisfaction with courageous conversations. If you can’t resolve them, it may be time to move on. Don’t be a victim.
Inspiration, passion, and love. It’s hard to fake what we don’t feel. It’s tough to impassion others about their work unless we’re impassioned about ours.
Creating leadership energy is an inside job. It’s the heart of leadership.