Young people have asked me, “What should I do with my talents? Should I go into management, sales, science, academia…?” Recently a very gifted leader confessed that she was seriously considering accepting an invitation to sing in a heavy metal band.
I advised her to continue seriously considering. As always, I stopped at “seriously considering” and did not tell her to “go for it.” That’s up to her. However, I did tell her to consider whether her management talents or her musical dreams—her job or her prospective band—will better serve the world.
Philosophers have wrestled with the moral question of whether one should indulge one’s passion or serve the human race with one’s native talents. Wouldn’t it would be wrong, for example, for a gifted surgeon to retire young and become a beachcomber?
What if Albert Einstein had devoted his life to the violin?
On the other hand, wouldn’t the world be better off if Adolf Hitler had become a painter?
For the fortunate, passion and talent merge, and they live their dreams. You are fortunate if you are passionate about what you love to do, and when what you love to do serves the world better than anything else you might do.
Many people, I’m afraid, fail to find a professional place in the world playing the saxophone or dancing ballet. For every NBA star, Oscar winner, and Nobel laureate, we find millions who reached for glory and came up with a lot less glory than they had hoped and fought for. To move forward, they had to learn to love or at least tolerate what they had to do to make a living.
Our greatest leaders did not direct their lives toward what they loved to do. They all did what their exceptional vision told them they had to do. They became inspiring orators and developed outstanding organizational and political skills out of necessity.
We live in a generally comfortable world, enjoy abundance and convenience, because many of the men and women who made our modern world spent lives doing not what they loved but what they had to do in order to survive. You may have had to flip burgers, deliver papers, or mow lawns on the way to where you have arrived today.
Leadership Intimacy asks you to, first, know yourself intimately—who you are, what you want, where you are going, what you believe in, and how you need to improve your talents in the best interests of yourself, the people you lead, and your organization. Quite an order!
Next Leadership Intimacy challenges you to know every direct report, peer, manager, and customer as intimately as possible. Especially those who work for you. Know their dreams and make every attempt to help them apply their talents and their abilities to their best advantage and for the good of your organization.
Don’t attempt to tackle Leadership Intimacy alone, however. To really learn and put into practice the most effective ways to improve your development as a leader, I strongly recommend our CoachQuest Leader-as-Coach Program. There you will learn and practice the leadership skills you need to address alongside leaders like you from other organizations with many of the same challenges. Learn more about CoachQuest.