Spirit At Work -- Follow Your Calling

Dec. 21, 2004
Recognize your own passion, then you can help colleagues find theirs.

What is the point of our role as corporate leaders? What makes us unique and why do we follow this path? What is our most important responsibility? Yes, yes, I hear you. Growth, maximizing shareholder value, increasing market share, differentiating the business, increasing the profits, yadda yadda, yadda. But beyond all this, beyond the material, the metrics, and the mundane -- what is the real point? Could there be something noble or divine that lifts the hearts and souls of leaders and stirs our passions? Is there something greater, something more inspiring than just making the numbers each quarter? Do we deserve to be so inspired by our work that we each can truly believe the world will be different and a little better because of our contributions? Of course, for corporate leaders the responsibility to make the numbers is not unimportant, but it's not the most important thing. As I wrote in The Way of the Tiger (1990, Secretan Center): "Profit is like oxygen; essential for our survival, but not the reason for our existence." We don't wake up in the morning, throw open the windows, and proclaim "Ah! I'm going to have a great day breathing today!" any more than most of us would say "Ah! I'm going to have a great day making profits today!" even though we know both are essential to our well-being. Perhaps one of our greatest roles as leaders is to ensure that the people we lead and coach find their calling; that they do not die with their music still inside them. One of the legacies of great inspirational leaders is the degree to which they helped people to learn, grow, flourish, and discover their true selves during their Earth visit. And too often at work, as in many other parts of our lives, we offer advice we seldom take ourselves. In order to inspire others, though, we must first be inspired ourselves. The macho idea that we must keep a stiff upper lip and sacrifice our needs in order to dedicate ourselves to the greater good of the organization is baloney. Almost every leader can recall days of disappointment or despondency and, in moments of honest reflection, we all will admit that on these occasions we were less than our inspiring best to others. As we mature we question our journeys. Dante wrote, "In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost." The accidents of biography that brought us to our current professions often cause us to be in places that we never would have consciously chosen, or we lose the passion in our calling. Reflect for a moment and ask yourself: "Am I doing the work I love?" "Is it time to reinvent myself?" "Have I been so seduced by the trivial, the mundane, and the processes that I have overlooked the noble essence of my work and the many ways my spirit and that of others can be moved by what I do?" Thomas Moore, in his book Care of the Soul (1998, HarperCollins), cites "repression of the life-force" as the most common reason his clients seek his advice in therapy. Many people are trapped in activities that force them to live a lie -- they are not happy. Look into the mirror tomorrow morning and ask yourself, "Have I found my true calling -- am I being authentic?" Our most important role as leaders is to inspire colleagues, directors, employees, media, Wall Street analysts, suppliers, unions, legislators, family -- and, oh yes -- the one we often tend to forget: ourselves. In fact we cannot inspire others unless we are first inspired, and though there are many ways by which this can happen, few are as powerful as being in "flow" with our calling. Be sure you are following your passion -- your calling -- not your career or your training, which has been reduced to a mere bankable commodity. Follow the advice of author Denis Waitley: "Follow your passion, not your pension." When you do this, you will be reinvigorated and thus able to help others to find their calling. They will honor you as their inspirational leader, and together you will become an inspired organization. Lance Secretan is an advisor to leaders, a public speaker, and a recipient of the 1999 International Caring Award, presented by the Caring Institute, Washington. Author of nine books, including Inspirational Leadership, Destiny, Calling and Cause (1999, CDG Books), Secretan can be reached at [email protected].

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