Sustainable leadership.

Given the choice, what would you choose to do?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been “doing the rounds”. By which, I mean speaking with a lot of different business leaders from across my network, to get a sense of “how things are going right now”.

There’s a practical aspect to this: it helps me identify common issues that I can cover off in seminars and group sessions, and think about and write about in articles like these. But I mostly I do it because I enjoy doing it.

The conversations are always stimulating. These are people who make me think on my feet, prompt more questions for me to ask, and often leave me with challenges to mull over, sometimes for weeks. And from what I gather, the people I speak with enjoy the conversations as well for pretty similar reasons.

I mean, really, what’s the point of running your own business if you don’t get to do things you enjoy?

That’s not a flippant question by the way, it’s an incredibly important one, now more than ever. Because over the last year, many of us have been through really tough times. I see it in the faces of some of the people I speak with. I hear it in their voices, and in their concerns for colleagues in their businesses.

People are tired, stressed, worried. And dealing with that is hard enough when you genuinely enjoy what you do. It’s a sure-fire ticket to burnout when you don’t.

Over the last six months, my work, and all of my conversations with leaders, have convinced me that coping with the pressures, demands, and sheer pace of modern business leadership is not sustainable over the long term, unless the act of doing the job consistently creates at least as much energy and enjoyment for you as it drains from you, and ideally a whole lot more.

So, mindful that we only get one turn on this merry-go-round, how are you enjoying your ride?

This is the point where our defences start kicking in, because we can all be remarkably selective in our self-analysis. We can rationalise anything if we need to: to buoy up our spirits, sure up our self-esteem. Many of us are reluctant to even admit that there are big parts of our work we don’t enjoy at all.

Often, we’re scared to even ask ourselves the question, because then we might have to deal with the answer: that somewhere along the way we took the wrong turn, and now we’re stuck with it. The reality though, in my experience of actually having these conversations with people, we’re never stuck with it. In fact, we have far more agency and influence than we think.

So, be honest when I ask you: what are the specific parts of your working life, over the last couple of weeks for example, that you’ve really enjoyed? When were the moments you genuinely had fun? When did you feel like you’d made a meaningful difference and felt better as a result?

And which are the bits that, if someone could step in and take them all away without fear of anything being dropped, missed or broken, you would happily let go of?

We all have choices, and the closer to the top we are of our organisations, the more we need to choose wisely, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of everyone else too. Nobody wants to work for an unhappy boss. You don’t want to work for an unhappy you.

So, take those questions, answer them honestly, and work out how you can change things. And if you want to talk it through, drop me a line. 

Here’s to your health, wealth and happiness.