If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are. ~John W. Gardner
This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, a tradition on the Christian calendar that marks a season for us to remember the coming of the Christ child and to prepare for the long awaited second coming of Christ. The season is, for me, a time when I reflect on the life of my role model, Jesus, who lived I a life with such impact it changed how time is recorded in history and who still has followers all around the earth. This leads me to reflect on my life, and the angst I get from wondering if I am living a life well lived, wondering if my life is one that makes a difference.
A times, I get cynical about the way I am using this one life and answer the question of what I do at work, with the response that I help a huge multinational corporation make more money for the shareholders. Truthfully, here are those times when I feel I am not much more than a pawn in the corporate game, not a bishop, not a knight, just a lowly pawn, a piece that is easily sacrificed for the greater good.
Those are my cynical times. Thankfully, the cynical side of me tends to be short lived and does not have much opportunity to drag me down. I may be truly be a pawn but I am a pawn with dreams, a pawn that desires to help the other pawns reporting to me feel like they are kings, that in this big, impersonal, corporate workplace they matter to someone, that someone on the food chain are looking out for their best interests.
I have carry a great desire to live a life that makes a difference, a life that has an impact on the global community. But, I think that may be sourced by a selfish desire on my part, a desire to be seen as a great and wonderful man, a selfless fellow who thinks not of himself but of the greater good. Of course, wishing that for myself is evidence that I may not be as selfless as I wish, that there is somewhere in me a desire to seek personal glory. Because a seed of that motivation is part of my character, a character flaw, I sometimes think that I am not worthy of leading a cause with high visibility because high visibility may drive my ego to seek adoration for myself leading to a corruption of my soul and, ultimately, destruction of the very cause I was leading.
When I put my ego in check and look at my life, I see that I am in a position to make a difference in the lives of my fellow man. As a manager, I am the face of the corporation to my direct reports. I have the power to show them a cynical corporation and the power to show them a caring corporation. I can be a leader that leads to glorify myself or I can be a leader that seeks glory for the people I lead.
I also have a responsibility to the corporation that employs me, a responsibility to ensure that the people reporting to me are good corporate citizens, are workers that maximize output, are employees that add value to the corporation. The dual role of shepherd and manager may seem like a dichotomy but the roles don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I believe a shepherd that grows his flock into the best they can be will result in the flock generating the best value for the corporation. I see the answer in the Christ child.
When I study the entire life of the Christ child from birth to death, I see the model for how I should be viewing those I lead. I am a shepherd and I have a flock. It is my duty to protect the flock, to nurture the flock and help it achieve its potential. It is my calling to sacrifice my own selfish ambitions for the benefit of my people. I do this by showing them that I genuinely value them and their contributions. People who feel valued will perform at higher levels than those who don’t feel appreciated. I do my best to show the people I am privileged to lead that there can be humanity in the workplace.