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Thought Leaders Unpacked -> The Soul of a Leader #6: Battling for the Soul

thought-leaders“When things aren’t going well, the temptation to allow the soul to erode is strong.” (p. 101) Aptly put.

Considering that all businesses rely on people to get their work done, it always amazes me that so many leaders do not do everything in their power to make sure their teams are playing at the top of their professional games. In fact, many do not even factor the human component into their thinking and planning.

Soul erosion.

I have long taught that there are three “hard facts” about working with people that any leader must come to terms with if they want their teams to succeed. One is that people need to contribute and make a difference. Second, people need to grow and develop. And third, people need to connect and belong.

Ignore any one of these three “hard facts” and you are merely erecting your own obstacles.

Margaret Benefiel is calling for this sort of honest assessment of one’s commitment to people. It’s not lip service. It’s looking at one’s practices, policies and behaviors, and assessing the effect they have on those in your professional care. If the effect is negative, harmful, or even dismissive, then you are—like it or not—fostering “soul erosion.”

Fact. People add value when they get to show up as people. Diminish the human factor and you diminish their work potential. People make lousy machines. You would think this would be obvious in the 21st century. And yet we are still writing job descriptions like they are step-by-step instructions for controlling a mischievous child.

Benefiel does a marvelous job of laying out the wider implications a company’s strategic decisions have on the team. We have fallen into a fallacious pattern of compartmentalizing the importance of profits from the importance of the people who earn us those profits. These are not two competing foci. Profits and people are tightly and inextricably woven together into the fabric of our work. We need a more integrated approach to thinking about work, people and success that doesn’t set profits and people at odds with each other.

Benefiel’s profound challenge to us is to frame these choices as “battles for the soul.”

More effective than work. Richer than profits. Deeper than personal fulfillment. We find a place where our values, our humanity and our efforts collide in a perfect storm of passion, purpose and fruitful work.

I am wondering in what ways I distance myself from my own soul when thinking about people and work. How might I be missing or avoiding a deeper and more fruitful place out of which to work by neglecting the soul connection?

What about you? Where might soul erosion be undermining your efforts at work? What was you main take-away from this chapter?

Each week I post my reflections from one chapter of The Soul of a Leader by Margaret Benefiel. My reflections are my own and are intended to generate conversation, catalyze additional thinking and encourage mutual learning.
If you are just joining the discussion now, welcome! Catch up on the entire series here.


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