Don't let the work kill the wonder
Joy comes naturally to everyone at first. I remember the exclamation from a 5-year-old - "That was the most fun I ever had!" - after a visit to an amusement park, the joy so evident in his glowing face. A slightly more jaded 16-year-old's cool statement that "This is the best present ever" on receiving his first car couldn't mask the excitement he felt. Do we lose the childhood art of experiencing joy by the time we are eligible for leadership positions?
I am always surprised when people refuse to consider taking on leadership positions. "Too hard," they say. "Too many conflicts, people issues, meetings, bureaucracy, hours." Do we focus so much on the challenges that we miss the real joy that can be experienced in leadership? I love the whole subject of leadership and have truly felt joy in each of the leadership positions I have held.
I am not suggesting that everyone should aspire to leadership or would find the same joy in it, but surely the perceived negatives are overwhelming the positive aspects for some people. Let me share some of the aspects of leadership that I have found particularly rewarding.
Leadership is both a reward and a responsibility. Your role calls for decisions and actions that have a powerful impact on the people around you. Your influence on the careers of those in your organization can facilitate the achievement of their long-held goals. Your coaching and developmental actions are rewarded when you see an employee shine in a new situation. Those who depend on your leadership may see you as a role model. The words and actions you choose will influence outcomes you may never see or hear.
Occasionally, you meet someone or hear a story that brings joy to the surface. I once gave a speech to a group of women in my hometown. Years later, one of the women called me to tell me that speech had changed her life! She had completely changed career directions, was successful and, most of all, was happy. I felt the joy of that 5-year-old on hearing this.
The ability to affect the success of your company is great. Understanding the company objectives and how your actions affect the results is key to making a strong contribution. Sometimes it may seem that the objectives are far removed from your day-to-day efforts, but even the most mundane task eventually finds itself reflected in the company results. How you manage your budget, achieve diversity goals, add to the bench strength of the company through recruitment and development of employees, set and meet productivity goals, and act as a visible, professional representative of the company in external activities - these are all ways to positively impact the company.
In one company I worked for, one of the primary goals was return on assets (ROA). My team was able to structure a financial transaction on our computer assets that increased the company ROA by 0.25 percent. Initially, we thought this was a trivial contribution until the chairman singled it out as a unique contribution for a "technical" group. How proud we were of that achievement!
Don't ignore the positive impact that leadership can have on you personally. Your ability to achieve your own goals strengthens as you build confidence through success. Even the occasional failures should not detract from your confidence. Enjoy the successes and learn from the failures.
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