Can work turn you into the person you never wanted to be? Or, can you use work to shape you into the kind of person you want to become?
Work transforms people.
It happens as they learn how to work within the system, to work with other people, and how to get ahead, or, just even survive.
The heat and the stress of work can very easily turn people into the kind of person that they swore they never would become.
Yes, work can take it’s toll.
But it can also be a place of growth and greatness. It’s the ultimate form of self-expression.
Whether you become the kind of person you want to be, or a shadow of your former-self, or the kind of person that you never wanted to be, it comes down to self-reflection and mindfulness.
In the book, Leadership in the Crucible of Work: Discovering the Interior Life of an Authentic Leader, Sandy Shugart, PhD, helps us see how we can use our work to become the person we want to be, and avoid becoming the kind of person we never want to be.
The Deeply Convicted and Punishing Leader
Beware and be aware of who you are becoming.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. Some leaders and teams seem effective on the outside, but when you look on the inside, it’s a house of cards, or, worse, a house of fear, or even a cage.
Some leaders talk the talk. Others actually walk their talk. Some leaders bring out the best in others. Other leaders clip the wings of those who might otherwise flourish.
Do you lift others up and grow their greatness, or do you hold them back, or do you keep them down?
“I know a leader of a great servant institution in our own community whose organization has been so damaged by the toxicity of his habits of control and manipulation that no one can work there long without sustaining permanent wounds. Outwardly, he projects competence, wisdom, even servant hood, but his staff knows him as a deeply conflicted and punishing leader. His own unhappiness in this miserable condition only ads to the vitriol waiting to be unleashed when anyone fails to comply with his ever-shifting expectations. His organization seems from the outside to be effective enough, until we consider what might have been, what creative possibilities have crushed, and what gifted colleagues have been exiled. And he is gradually awakening to the prison he himself has fashioned. How sad.”
Wisdom Begins with Awareness
As simple as it sounds, just becoming aware of the kind of experiences you are creating, the type of results you are getting, and the type of perception you are creating, can help you instantly
“Just knowing, becoming conscious of the nature of the tools we are using and how they can effect us is a very good beginning and worthy of continual reflection and self-examination. Some do this work of reflection in a journal; others give themselves a good talking to on a long walk or a run; still others have found or created relationships for accountability, friends who can ask the hard questions and receive our answers both skeptically and unconditionally. The point is to do this interior work and to make all the day-to-day details and signposts of our work the raw material for these self-inquiries.”
Gaze Boldly Into the Mirror Others Hold Up To You
Feedback is a gift. You can ignore it, or you can use it.
The key is to look for signs of erosion and growth. Are you becoming more of who you want to be? Would other people agree?
Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is, what do your daydreams reveal about your heart?
“In this process, we do well to look for signs of erosion and growth in our characters through the ways we are engaging our work. Signs of erosion, for example, light be when our approaches to accountability begin to slide slowly toward coercion, or when persuasion becomes spin, or proper discretion moves toward stealth or even ambush, or when negotiation begins to look like manipulation. Pay attention to your feelings in this process what makes you angry, what delights you, what do idle daydreams reveal about the condition of your heart? Feelings can lead to very productive inquiry. Also, as unpleasant as it may be, from time to time, graze boldly into the mirror others hold up to you.”
Work Becomes a Platform for Growth and Greatness
You can use work to become all that you’re capable of, and to inspire and lift others to their potential, along the way.
“You may well find that you feel a little hamstrung by this at first. All all, rivals and competitors are using these tools without compunction and are often gaining a competitive advantage. Perhaps. But I’m asking you to have a little faith that wisdom will lead where shrewdness cannot: to work and places of work that can become, in spite of all our human frailties, places to grow into maturity and grace, much to the long-term benefit of ourselves, our co-workers, and even the enterprise itself.”
It’s a small world. Life is short.
And, help others do the same.
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Image by ACSRAD.