“I come from a family of bull fighters”, say Qis, your newly established manager of extremely stressful intense situations (n.e.m.e.s.i.s.). “I look every challenge straight in the eye, no matter how many red herrings are raised. And then I shake my spear, I take aim, I point, and I stab. I never hesitate, I never lose, and I never run away”. You clear your throat. “Herrings?”, you ask. “Tis a gentleman here”, says Qis, “a plague o’ these pickle herring!”. You clear your throat again.
“So you think”, you say, “that it is always better to take arms against a sea of herrings and by opposing end them?”. “What else?”, replies Qis. “I have no spur to prick the sides of my bull, but only vaulting ambition”. You clear your throat for the third time.
“If only”, you whisper to yourself, “th’ assassination could trammel up the consequence”.
Most leaders got to where they are because at some point they were ambitious. They had a vision, they wanted a position, or they followed a passion. Nobody gets to the top without striving, and striving always also means stepping on other people’s toes or burning other people’s noses. Sometimes, this just happens without any plan or intention: When you got the job you wanted, somebody else did not get it. When you received the promotion you desired, somebody else was not promoted. So, as a leader, by definition, you’re the object of others’ resentment.
Once in a leadership position, leaders need to switch gears from pursuing their own ambitions to supporting others in pursuing their ambitions – while attentively managing any potential collateral damage. It might be exciting to see Qis so driven by wanting to achieve challenging goals – but it might also be dangerous to let n.e.m.e.s.i.s. run off caught in the net of this one-pointed zeal.
Leaders who skillfully use the drive of others while being relaxed enough to ensure that neither those others nor they themselves get carried away, create beneficial momentum for their organizations. Only by letting go of ambition themselves, leaders see clearly what others’ ambitions will achieve – and where they might be misdirected.
“The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream”, you say. “And remember that in time the savage bull doth bear the yoke”. Qis looks at you with fiery eyes, shouting: “You starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!”, then storming out of the room.
* This is the seventh of a series of blog posts exploring some uniquely motivating mindfully elaborated ramblings (s.u.m.m.e.r.) of mine, written during my summer vacation in 2019, investigating topics and trends relevant for leaders in today’s multilayered world. All persons, situations, and dialogues quoted are purely fictional, albeit informed by what I see happening in companies I work with. If you want to know what I do when I work, read more here and here [retrieved July 9, 2019].