Will Salyards
Leadership Coaching and Mentoring

Will Salyards, PhD Blog

Life, Career, Leadership

How to Build a Career While Creating a Life

It’s said to be “more important to know who you are than where you are going, for where you are going will change as the world around you changes.” In this light the demand to know direction and “do something” isn’t always a leader’s best counsel. In fact, the busyness of doing can get in the way of the business of being and become a way to defer taking a look at yourself. If you’ve got this far and are starting to think, “Great, another article on navel-gazing,” that’s not where we’re going. Accomplishment, achievement, and success in our efforts are good things. There is a time for questions and a time for actions and no amount of the one can take the place of the other. So while leaders don’t need to examine their navel in an endless questioning of motive or desire we do need to periodically take a look at ourselves, to touch again the markers that tell us who we are.

A number of assessments exist to measure a leader’s potential for motivation but a group from Arizona State University has gone further. Their work and others suggests that inspirational leadership is enhanced by our brain’s ability to regulate our emotions. Its importance is in the fact that we inspire member accomplishment and commitment through our emotions and the emotions of those we serve. While leading isn’t emotional, the leader who develops his/her sense of emotional intelligence is better equipped to appeal directly to member’s values and beliefs and from within them develop the shared ideals and goals of community.

Building community is about building attachments among people that draw us to the better side of our motivation. Such leadership stands in contrast to negativity offering the positive emotions of “love, awe, hope, compassion, faith, forgiveness, joy, and gratitude” (G. Vaillant). and is marked by its pointing people to a better future. But how do you get to this happy place?

Sherry Hoppe suggested a four-point framework that could be helpful if we’re willing to get about the business of being. It includes the leader’s inner journey; the intentional pursuit of meaning and significance; a deliberate wholeness; and conscious connectedness.

The Leader’s Inner Journey

As leaders we profit each time we admit the truth, even when that truth is about ourselves. Generally, this isn’t what we don’t know about ourselves but what we’ve refused to deal with. Taking an inner journey means reading the story of our life and coming to acceptance that, in the words of sacred text, all things contrive to our good.

The Intentional Pursuit of Meaning and Significance

The pursuit of meaning and significance is about seeing the whole of our life and in that “understanding the whole that already exists” (J. Jaworski). In other words, it’s to see that our efforts toward personal advancement have taken us where we’re going and now our energies are better spent building instead of climbing. You may want to consider how another leader worked through the question. It is below and used with permission.

Life calls me to consider the point of view of the weak, to pause before bowing at the altar of power, and to reflect upon a justice that is concerned with restoring what should be. These statements emit from and refer to goodness, a goodness rooted in the understanding that all humanity, while not all my responsibility, is still my concern and the focus of my purpose.

With this as my purpose, accomplishment does not depend upon the changing values of success. Career progression, choosing what is the most advantageous, and ascending ever higher in social structure while not mean, are no longer the rules by which meaningful measurements are taken. Yet I do serve.

My role, if not differing from my purpose, is distinguishable from it. In other words, what I do isn’t altogether the fullness of why I am. We choose (or are chosen) to express goodness through a frame of actions otherwise known as vocation. Vocation may or may not be fulfilling to my ambitions and may nor may not be thought of as successful. Yet, if I’m faithful to my purpose and am able to draw contentment from it my living, regardless the vocation, can be fulfilled.

Serving then is always with a hand on vocation and an eye on purpose. If the former keeps me in the row, the latter assures me I’m in the correct field. It’s important to serve in the right place.

“Why should anyone be led by me?” The question is a good one and one I’ve often considered. If mine were to equip for vocation only, to mentor for task alone, then following me may net a vocation but not a life. My goal must be higher. If it is true that we are not fully equipped to serve until exposed to our purpose, then followers deserve better than a task filled vocation. The imperative of leadership is to create awe filled servants not absorbed automatons. To create servants who have touched the mystery of goodness and been scratched by the prick of evil, who seeing purpose over vocation are yet willing to labor and find in it their voice.  

This, I think, is why I lead and the only reason anyone should follow. There are, to be sure, other considerations that relate to task and are important and worthwhile. But purpose is the denominator most common to all humanity and the first reason to be a leader.

Deliberate Wholeness

Among the meanings of wholeness, wellbeing and unified come into view. Thinking about our wholeness in terms of emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing is vital but there’s another way that’s beneficial way: Review how our life is compartmented if not fragmented between our various activities and obligations. The lack of wholeness can mean our not being fully present for any.

Conscious Connectedness

We’re all connected to someone or something: Family, friends, and work are some examples. When we think about our connectedness we do consider these but also ask about where we fit within the world we inhabit as well as the greater world beyond us.

Would talking with a coach be helpful as you think about your life/work balance? Click here for a free consultation.