It is easy for us to slip into a place of despair in our lives even when things are going well. Success is fleeting, and recognition is vain. Even in the midst of great accomplishments, success can be a lonely place, and if you are in a position of leadership it can be even lonelier. Recently there have been several stories in the media about successful executives who just walk away because they are disenchanted with their lives and how things are turning out, or worse yet they have slipped into a place so dark they take their own lives. The achievements are just no longer enough to sustain them, and the financial success does not satisfy the way it used to. Closing the next big deal, or signing the next big contract doesn’t have the same meaning it once did.
There comes a time when every leader asks, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” Even in the middle of all of the accolades and applause great leaders can start to feel like the success they have achieved is no longer enough. So how can a leader regain the ability to do work that matters?
Help others. Yes, it really is that simple. There are two main ways you can help others succeed that will create true success in your life and will have a lasting impact in others.
- In the social sector there is a huge need for successful leaders to pour into their communities and make a difference. It can be disheartening to see all of the success you achieve as a leader when you live 30 minutes away from poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Much research has been done in the last few years on what happens to people who invest in others and focus on their issues. US News & World Report stated in research that there are numerous benefits in helping others with their problems. These benefits include improving your mood and seeing that transition into a sustainable upward spiral. It can even reverse depression. I challenge you to find a cause you believe in and get behind it and spend some time working with others outside of your professional life. Whether it is reading to kids in a school, helping a Free Enterprise class at a high school create a business plan, or building a house for Habitat for Humanity, the work you do in the social sector matters, both for the people you are serving and your own perspective on success.
- Professionally as a leader when you focus on other people’s needs and help them solve issues you reignite the passion and spark for the work you were made to do. You dust the cobwebs off of past accomplishments and help someone see there is another way, maybe a better way to solve the issue they have in front of them. You might even find that you are building a stronger team, developing a deep bench of top performers to fuel your succession plan, and unleashing talent that helps your organization rise to new heights. The time you spend helping someone else achieve their goals actually benefits you as well. Mentoring a young leader allows you to multiply your influence in ways you could never do on your own, and personally it may relieve some of the pressures, many times self-inflicted, that you are feeling. Focusing on others allows you to take the lens off of yourself and relax, live in the moment, and share your story.
The secret of influence is using your leadership to make the people around you better and improve their lives through achieving something for themselves that they couldn’t do without your leadership. In my own journey as a leader I think about a handful of conversations great leaders I respect have had with me through the last 20+ years, and they are still impacting me today. To them it might have been just a story or an anecdote, but to me, it was life changing and their investment in me paid off in ways that they, nor I, could have never known at the time. So, go Help Others, and experience true success; live the life you were truly meant to live.