“Just about everything you learned in school about life is wrong, but the wrongest thing might very well be this: Being well-rounded is the secret to success.” Seth Godin
First of all, “wrongest” is, indeed, a word, though my spell-checker says it isn’t. We shouldn’t expect anything but excellent grammar from Seth Godin, as we shouldn’t expect anything but interesting and even startling turns of phrase. So, with that settled, let me add that “being well-rounded” is the wrongest thing for several interrelated reasons.
Our daily, walking-around behavior could indict us on several very serious charges.
1. Charge: That we believe ourselves to know more than anyone else.
2. Charge: That we believe ourselves to be the only effective actors on the scene.
3. Charge: That we are disinterested in the concerns and contributions of others.
4. Charge: That we believe that there’s no God.
Leaders who spend all their time developing their external skills, but spend no time developing their internal character, don’t make it.
Chutspah, moxie, ambition, drive, steam, guts and all the other expressions of brave determination are simply insufficient to the task of finishing life’s race well.
All Progress Begins with Telling The Truth.
Trustworthiness—the personal integrity of the leader—is a business asset. Being a leader who is trustworthy – a leader who does what he or she says – has a measurable value for the company’s bottom line. The reason this is true is that workers produce far better results for the leader that they trust than for the leader that they don’t trust. The leadership of an enterprise must be credible – the leader must be believable – if there is to be growth in worker engagement.
In his book, The Dip, Seth Godin talks about the great advantage it is to reach that point in an endeavor when all seems lost. Every endeavor reaches that point, Godin points out. And most people quit, right then and there. And what is the advantage for you when you reach this point? If you reach this point and don’t quit, if you look at the damning evidence but suspend final judgment in favor of perseverance, if you keep on pressing even though all seems hopeless, you’ll quickly distinguish yourself from your competition.
“The way out is further in.” A close friend spoke these words to me nearly fifteen years ago as I was struggling to fit myself into a new set of role expectations that didn’t really fit. “If you can be 100% of who you are inside of your new role,” my wife Milonica had similarly said about this same situation, “then I’m in favor of you taking the job. But if you have to leave a part of who you are out on the margins of your life in order to do the job the way others want, then I’m totally against it.”
“We are allowed to catch our breath.” I wrote that sentence in my last blog, declaring that we must get our rest. Though we are not permitted to coast – we must always be growing – we are permitted and, indeed, required, to take a pause, a Sabbath, a vacation, a retreat.
Only the wicked are doomed to unending labor.
I was struck this week, in my coaching calls with executives and owners, by the fact that leaders are not permitted to plateau. “I have things where I want them, and so I’m going to maintain at this level,” is the very first thing we say when we’ve (unwittingly) decided to destroy everything we’ve built. Holding ground requires growth. Keeping things the same demands change. A safe tomorrow is won through risk.
This is one of the deep paradoxes of leadership, and I know very few people who actually like it.
Over the past 50 years, a burgeoning industry has sprung up under the general banner of “Find Your Passion.” This emergent understanding about human motivation – so different from the time-honored tools of carrot and stick – is a corrective to much of human history worldwide. In point of fact, the contribution a human person can make in the world is outrageously larger when fueled by passion and a deep sense of calling than when fueled by a boss-man promising double rations for double time, or worse, an extra lickin’ if the work ain’t done.
But, has the corrective gone too far? Or, perhaps better posed, has the corrective caused us to lose an important and more traditional point of focus with those under our charge – children, employees, volunteers – that is now wrecking its own extraordinary havoc?