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.