The 'Why' of Leadership

Image of Eric Easter


June 12, 2009

I could easily complete the title to this with “…even when we don’t enjoy it”. This is not a comment on unpleasant duties like confronting someone or dealing with an irate customer. This is about enduring a period in one’s career when you are doing things that are not really enjoyable. We’ve all been there. Perhaps we are starting a new job and part of an indoctrination program involves duties we didn’t sign up for. Or maybe we are assigned new tasks at work that we really dislike. There could be a million reasons, but the point is, who ever said we’re going to enjoy all of the things that we nonetheless need to do? The truly relevant question is whether this relatively short period of pain is worth it. Are we learning about something that we must know to advance our career? Do we need to do this to help the company survive to protect our job? Can we see better days ahead? Is this really a short-term situation? If you decide to make the necessary sacrifice the best way to get through these times is to know that you are doing it for a particular reason that has tangible benefits for you. Don’t just assume it! Carefully examine the facts to make sure it is true.Getting out of bed is tough when you know that what lies ahead are duties and responsibilities you don’t enjoy. Maintaining a good attitude can be a battle. Most all of us have been in this situation. Unfortunately, some of us spend much of our career in this place. This is not OK. Settling for conditions that make one miserable long-term is a waste of time and ultimately of life. However, making the calculated choice to endure a set of circumstances short-term to achieve a particular goal is healthy. We have done this all our life: we suffer practice so that we can improve enough to be able to play in the game; we study so that we can get a good grade; we mow yards so that we can have money to play, and so forth. Doing what is necessary (even if it’s something we don’t like) in order to achieve a certain goal is part of the American value set. Doing it with a positive attitude makes the journey more pleasant and improves results.

Those that settle for unfulfilling positions for much of their career are missing out on discovering their true potential. The same is true for those who are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifice to achieve a given goal. As painful and miserable as it may be to do what is necessary, if it results in attaining a goal then it is generally worth it. In fact, the greater the sacrifice is the more satisfying the victory.

In tough times companies cut back and ask more of their employees. This forces those who remain to do more and assume responsibilities that they may not enjoy and that may not be a core competency. This is a classic case of doing what is necessary short-term in order that the company has a long-term. Assuming we believe in the company’s vision and our role within it, then we have a duty to make the best of the situation. There are things we will learn functionally as well as things we will learn about ourselves. View it for what it is, an opportunity to contribute and grow.

No matter where we are in our career there will be times when we are asked to take on responsibilities we don’t enjoy. It is always our choice. Our decision should be based on the opportunities that we believe lie ahead. There is nothing wrong with making a short-term sacrifice if it will at least maintain and hopefully improve our long-term prospects. If we decide to do what is necessary then we must do it with vigor and enthusiasm so that we gain all that we can from the experience.

Short-term, we can handle just about anything as long as a larger goal is served. Whether we choose to is up to us.