July 23, 2015

Making a Leadership Job Intrinsically Fulfilling

businessman-432662_640Most leaders think it is their job to achieve a result through people. I have consistently insisted that this view of leadership is vastly mistaken. The effect of this view is that people are used as resources to the end of achieving an outcome or a result. This produces people who become resistant to the boss and they do so because they feel used and as a result, consumed. The misfortune is that not only does this way of looking at things consume the subordinate, it actually consumes the leader as well.

When my behavior is results focused it means that that which I have in the Untitledmoment (which by definition includes me) becomes the vehicle, the means or the resource to get to the outcome.  When resources are used they are consumed, which means as soon as my motive is conditional and outcome driven, I become exhausted and consumed. It is really interesting that burnout, particularly in mid career, is seen to come with the territory of a leadership role. It is seen to be the necessary accompaniment to hard work and a successful career. I don’t think that its the hard work that is the problem. It is the intent that is the problem.

When my fundamental intent in dealing with someone else is to get something from them, their ability to withhold what I want gives them power over me. It not only gives them power over me but it makes them dangerous to me because they can manipulate me.   At the same time my intent to get something from them makes me dangerous to them, which means I am dangerous to them. The  outcome of this is conflict. The product of the leader thinking that he is here to achieve a result through people is that he structures conflict into the essence of his relationship with the other. That conflict needs to be managed. It requires the imposition of inordinate levels of control because I cannot trust someone when I have an entrenched conflict with them. All of this is very hard work. Depleting and exhausting hard work. My people are my enemy. I need to constant watch my back.

When I realize that my people are my product, when I use the task as a means to enable them, I am constructing my relationship with them on the basis of my contribution. I am there to give to them. When I base my intent on what I can give to someone else they have no power over me. I am safe from them. Not only am I safe from them, but they are safe from me, I have harmony with them. They are on my side. My people are my allies.

More importantly, my day to day work life is no longer something I have to suffer through, it becomes the point of me doing things. I shift my attention from outcome into process. When I make what I am doing the purpose of what I am doing then I no longer experience it as the price I have to pay to get a reward. It is its own reward. I am fulfilled by doing it. May day to day life is no longer something I have to suffer through, it is the point. It is the purpose.

7 Comments on “Making a Leadership Job Intrinsically Fulfilling

Ali Anwer Adil
November 26, 2014 at 9:20 am

Then where we put salary in the situation and in the equation? Should we ask our company not to pay us anymore or cut the salaries as we are here not to get but to give? Putting it more simply, if Giving / Contribution unconditionally = Fullfilment, what is the answer of Salary = ?

November 27, 2014 at 11:05 am

Thank you for your question Ali – this is one that we deal with fairly often when we talk in Care & Growth about “being here to give”. It is not a case of giving up our salaries for the greater purpose, but it is a case of knowing what I need to pay attention to in order to feel fulfilled and in harmony with the people around me.

If I am only at work to get my salary, over time people will experience me as a person who is here to get what I want and that I am prepared to go to any lengths to do this. They will see me using people as the means that end, whether it is my salary, a promotion or a big bonus. What happens over time, is that I become surrounded by people who are the same, also here to get what they can for themselves, driven by their needs just like me.

If I focus on what I am here to give i.e. my contribution to the team, my sub-ordinates, the company and the job I am employed to do, I am focusing on what I have control over. When I focus on what I want to get, I am focusing on things I have no control over, someone else makes the decision about what I earn, what size my bonus is etc.

By coming to work to make a contribution, in whatever way that is, I will experience harmony with my colleagues, sub-ordinates and managers, I will fill feel fulfilled by knowing I am doing the best I can to make a difference to people around me. I will feel secure in the knowledge that I am giving of my best and unless I work for an unstable organisation, I will also get paid my salary at the end of the month!

Robert Tucker
November 27, 2014 at 11:33 am

Excellent question! During our training sessions we ask people to construct a list of attributes that describe the person they would willingly work for, someone for whom they would go the extra mile. The deeper understanding of this question is ‘who do you give permission to exercise power over you?’ Amazingly, over several years of conducting this process, I have never seen someone include the word “SALARY”. What motivates us to go the extra mile for someone is very seldom money. This doesn’t mean that money is not in the list. Explicitly it is missing, but implicit in words like “RECOGNITION” and “REWARD” is the idea of remuneration. Money is also implicit in the word “FAIR”, because I want to be remunerated fairly in line with the value I add.

When we ask people why they come to work, their reasons can be grouped into one of four different categories: SECURITY, FULFILLMENT, POWER/SIGNIFICANCE & HARMONY. The issue of salary, or money, falls into the category of SECURITY. The irony is that our security is never a function of what we get, it is always a function of what we give. Since we have very little control of what we get, if we base our security on that, we will always be insecure. Since we always have control over what we give, we will always be secure when we focus on the quality of our contribution.

We truly do live in a benevolent universe that wants to support us and take care of us. When we focus on what we get, we are essentially living in denial of that benevolence and in a state of distrust. Quite often the thing we fear comes to pass, perhaps loss of salary. I have my own personal experience of how I focused on my salary so much that I ultimately lost it.

On the contrary, when we focus on what we give, we find that our needs will be met, and that our contributions will be fairly recognised and rewarded. When we trust in a benevolent universe, we often find that the Universe’s idea of fair reward is immensely greater than our own.

assad schuitema
November 26, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Salaries are necessary but should not be the end. Salaries should be viewed as a means, necessary given the system we function within. Just because salaries are necessary does not mean there can be no purpose other than a salary. One can adopt the making of a contribution as one’s formal goal.

Fakhir Shah
November 26, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Giving is a function of our intent. It is what sits behind the eyes that is more important than what sits in the hands. In any commercial transaction it is possible for me to focus on serving the other. This does not mean that I don’t get paid. Issue is where my focus is; what drives me.

Shahbaz Aftab
November 27, 2014 at 11:38 am

I think we won’t be 100% unconditional in any transaction or moment. I think only God is 100% unconditional but the more we are on unconditional side the more we will be powerful, secure, fulfilled and in harmony with others.

Ali Anwer Adil
November 27, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Thank you so much, all of You. Beautiful & satisfactory replies.

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