Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

How would you answer the question: why on earth am I on earth?

The foundation for all healthy leadership begins with a calling. Leaders have always been called. Sacred scriptures throughout the world emphasize this. However, what is almost always missed is the development of the call story.

There are two levels of calling that need to be identified. The first is a general calling and a specific calling. Each of these plays a unique and significant role in the life of the leader.

The general call is usually the first initial calling that comes with leadership. As a coach, it’s common to see this within the coaching field. Fresh out of coaches training, I was under the belief that I could (and should) coach “anyone and everyone.”

It’s an easy thought to rationalize:

If the coaching principles are true, then I should be able to coach anyone!

And while the coaching principles are true and universal, I cannot nor should I, coach everyone. Coaches always seem to learn this the hard way, usually through a bad client. Thankfully, I had my bad client experience early on. While I knew that in theory, I could coach anyone, practically I knew I didn’t want to coach him again.

Specific calling happens when leaders remain faithful to pursuing and developing a robust answer to the question, “Why on earth am I on earth? What’s my ultimate purpose? Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

In my own coaching practice, I’ve worked with C-Suite executives, entrepreneurs, managers, religious professionals, educators, and people in the service industry. Each person allowed me to narrow down my specific niche. Now, I can clearly and confidently say that I provide executive coaching for small business owners.

Engaging in Your Calling

Most of us have experienced a general calling to leadership. That’s why we’re plugged into a network like LinkedIn. It’s the place for us to connect with other like-minded individuals.

I’m also willing to venture that many of us have found our specific calling. We know what we were put here to do.

The tension happens in two locations: for those that don’t know their specific calling and for those that do and aren’t doing it.

First, burnout can affect those that don’t know their specific calling. For years, I was stuck in this position. You, or someone you know, might be in this position if they say things like:

  • I don’t know where my life is going.
  • What’s my purpose?
  • I can’t seem to figure out what I’m trying to do.
  • I feel so lost.

These sorts of sayings are clues and indicators of an undefined and unrefined calling. For these leaders, burnout happens because the mounting frustration of an incomplete vision leaves them overwhelmed. Life for leaders was never meant to stop with a general calling.

All leaders all call for a specific reason, to a specific place, for specific people, to accomplish a significant mission.

The second place for burnout is for those that know their specific calling but aren’t practicing it. You might hear or feel sayings like this:

  • I feel like I’m made for more.
  • If I could just get the right opportunity…
  • I could accomplish so much if I could just get out of my own way.

For those with a specific, but yet unfulfilled calling, burnout can happen because of the increasing resentment of seemingly insurmountable barriers.

Leaders with an unfulfilled specific calling struggle with the fear of failure, inadequacy, or of missing out on achieving ultimate success.

Calling – Meeting The Needs of Others

Frederick Buechner once referred to calling as,

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And notice, that so far, I have mentioned nothing about jobs, titles, or positions. Those are largely irrelevant when it comes to fulfilling a calling in leadership.

I worked with an individual once who, by all personality tests and interviews, would have been a great church planter. As we worked through his areas of calling and gifting, however, we discovered that he didn’t want to plant a church at all. Instead, he wanted to revitalize old churches and bring new life to established congregations.

Another former client worked his way up the corporate ladder, only to find himself lonely at the top. After reevaluating his career choices, he started down a completely different career field that gave him more flexibility in his home life. He was much happier wearing the pinstripes of a coach to his son’s baseball team than the pinstripes of his three-piece suit.

Calling – What it is … and what it isn’t

Calling is …

  • discovering, pursuing, and fulfilling the answer to the question, “What on earth am I on earth for?”
  • knowing intimately your deepest purpose and passion in the world.
  • a part of everyone’s story.
  • foundational to establish healthy leadership patterns while avoiding burnout.

Calling is not …

  • dependent on rank, title, position, promotion, or title.
  • arrogant, boastful, proud, or demeaning of others.
  • reserved for a select few “special ones.”
  • an optional endeavor who want to reach their full potential.

The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

Person Rock Climbing with Overlay text "Do Hard Things"

One of the common phrases in our house is, “Do hard things!”

It’s a call. A challenge. To our kids, but also to the adults. Life requires, necessitates difficulty. We should rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things

Life is full of the difficult.

Taking our first steps requires doing hard things.

When we’re young, learning to walk is hard. Yet without knowing any better, our natural instinct is to persevere. We fall, we rise again, and we take another step.

Somewhere along the way, however, we get talked out of that mindset. We learn to shrink back, play small, give in, and give up. Ultimately, we end up missing out on some of the greatest aspects of life.

Because everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Our ability to push through, rise to the occasion, and achieve the difficult things, determines how far we get in life.

 

Don’t Run From Hardship

One writer from the early church history penned the idea of difficulty this way:

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (The Voice)

We were warned thousands of years ago about the necessity of doing difficult things in life. From cleaning our rooms to forgiving someone who offends us, the message is the same: do hard things!

Got a side-hustle you want to be your full-time gig? Do Hard Things. 

Looking to advance in your career and get a promotion? Do Hard Things.

 

Discovering the need to be a better parent, spouse, or lover? Do Hard Things.

Trying to lose ten, fifteen, for fifty pounds? Do Hard Things.

Convicted to swallow your pride and ask for forgiveness? Do Hard Things.

A Call For Growth

Ultimately, this is a call for growth. For all of us. We are presented each and every day with the chance to grow and get better.

For my son, it’s cleaning his room, engaging in his math homework, and being nice. (Even when his little brother is legitimately being annoying).

 

For me, it’s putting in the focused effort on the right action items every day. Ignoring distraction, feeding my quest for self-improvement, and growing a business.

For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s to put the phone down and engage with the family. Perhaps your growth point is to finally start that business venture that has you so scared (I can help). Maybe there’s that small voice that is urging you to show up, to speak up, and to act for justice.

Whatever it is. Embrace the call. Press into that feeling. Rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things.

Blog Cover Picture with Title "Courageous Leadership"

We are all leaders.

The only question then is what kind of leader we want to be.

Nancy Koehn in her fantastic book Forged in Crisis sets the premise this way: “Courageous leadership is actually a result of individual people committing to work from their stronger selves, discovering a mighty purpose, and motivating others to join their cause.”

Strong, courageous leadership is composed of three elements.

First, is the strength and belief of a stronger self.

Second, is a call beyond oneself.

Third, is eliciting others to join.

A Stronger Self

We are all in the process of self-development. Engaging in blind spots, seeking sound council, expanding our minds. We read, process, develop new ideas, think, share, and refine our every action.

This is because we embody a firm belief in reaching our full potential. That there is something inside of us call to be more.

Do more. Blog Cover Picture with Title "Courageous Leadership"

Love more.

We know that there is a call within us that if we embrace it, it could transform the world.

The greatest gift we can give the world is our full self. This is not arrogant or pushy, it is a recognition of the gift God himself placed within us.

Koehn examines the development of five great leaders in history and reaches this conclusion: “The concept that, at times, the most powerful thing one can do is to invest in oneself, without signs of great outward progress … The work they did on themselves wasn’t some kind of formal bildungsroman brought to life. No, the self-development work that these protagonists did was generally unnamed and unforeseen. It was often accomplished ad hoc, in response to an obstacle in their way or a new realization. But once learned, the particular skill, aspect of emotional mastery, or powerful insight became a part of the individual leader’s tool belt—to be used and strengthened going forward. And as all five individuals came to realize, the harder they worked on themselves, the more effective they became as leaders.”

A Larger Vision

Great leaders never work on themselves as the end goal. Rather, the end goal is to complete a mission. They want to birth the vision in their mind and fan the flame burning in their heart.

We get that.

We have that same calling.

As leaders, we’re calling others to join the mission. Save the planet. Invent a product. Find a new revenue stream. Raise a child.

Whatever it is, we get it. You get it. The belief in your best self – and your continued pursuit of that – have led you to acknowledge the world-changing power contained in your soul.

When you spend time developing yourself and give detail to the future vision, you can enter step three of leadership.

Recruiting Others

The final step of great leadership (or ‘courageous leadership’ as Koehn calls it) is to recruit others. We can never complete this journey alone.

We will never reach the greatest potential on our own accord.

A mentor.

A coach.

A group of peers. Blacksmith forging iron

A tribe.

A blacksmith of the soul, sharpening your iron to bring out the greatness.

Other like-minded individuals willing to seeing the awe-inspiring vision come to life. Not just in your mind. Not just in your heart. Instead, your desire is now theirs. They want to honor you and the call in your life while charting new territory.

We are all leaders.

The only question then is what kind of leader we want to be.

I am preparing lecture notes for a master’s course in Ethical Leadership. This is a preview of the material. While the full course is private, I will be offering a version of this to the public in the near future.

 

To find out more or be put on the course waitlist, join my Elite Performers newsletter.

 

To work directly with me, sign up for coaching.

Sources:

Koehn, Nancy F. Forged in Crisis: The Making of Five Courageous Leaders (p. 3). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

 

Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

Spiritual and Emotional Health in Leaders

The spiritual and emotional health of leaders is a necessary component of holistic health. 

We’re in the middle of a series on leadership health. Want to catch up? Part 1 is here.

Spiritual Health

Healthy leaders engage in ancient practices of development, often called spiritual disciplines. Times of quiet reflection, meditation, prayer, rest, and community discernment are a few examples.

An example of leadership spiritual growth is a hobby. Hobbies are those life-giving activities that serve as a reflection of our unique personality. Hunting, fishing, reading, flying drones, calligraphy. 

Need help? I did. Go here. Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

In fact, I found that is often the case for high performing leaders. Engrossed in work and personal development (for the sake of further accomplishment), high performing leaders have a hard time unplugging and engaging in activities with no real goal or purpose other than enjoyment.

I’ve used comments like, “I have fun when I’m winning.” That’s enormously frustrating to people who are playing to have fun. (And vice versa).

Other similar phrases include:

  • I don’t know what to do with downtime.
  • I’m not bringing too much work with me, I’m on vacation.
  • My hobbies include winning and getting better.

(I may or may not have said all of these….) 😬

But spiritual health is rooted in calling and it is about the full development of a person’s humanity. Below, is a partial list of spiritual practices and disciplines to help you grow.

Practices for Spiritual Development:

  • Prayer
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Scripture Reading
  • Gratitude and Thankfulness
  • Fasting
  • Sabbath Rest
  • Singing
  • Silence
  • Solitude

Have others? Leave a comment and let others know how to grow in spiritual health.

Emotional Health in leaders

Emotional health is the next step to fruitful and productive leadership. In my experience, this is the most neglected area of health. The emotional health of a person sits in the unique field of being almost completely internal in nature through past experiences, while also being almost completely externally visible through actions, perceptions, and relationships.

Peter Scazzeo notes the concerns of emotional health:

Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings identifying and having active compassion for others initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships breaking free from self-destructive patterns being aware of how our past impacts our present developing the capacity to clearly express our thoughts and feelings respecting and loving others without having to change them clearly, directly, and respectfully asking for what we need, want, or prefer accurately assessing our own strengths, limits, and weaknesses, and freely sharing them with others developing the capacity to maturely resolve.

For the emotionally healthy leader, effective emotional health requires a previous recognition and engagement with the emotional traps, snares, and shortcomings at earlier stages of life. Family dynamics, addiction triggers, and shortcomings all need to be worked through and reflected upon.

But it is important to remember that emotional health may start internal, but presents external.

Snappy comebacks.

Biting remarks.  Leadership Blocks

Constant criticism.

These are a few outward signs that something is wrong internally. Healthy leaders, by contrast, are generous. With their praise, with their affirmation, with their encouragement and desire to see others succeed and grow.

Because this is such an important topic, we are going to examine how to grow in emotional health and intelligence next week.

For now, take this test if you want to know where you’re overall health is.

 

Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

I learned the necessity of emotional intelligence like a child learning to walk. There was lots of hand-holding, many more tremendous crashes (often public),  and more than a few bumps and bruises. 

The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is like playing the piano. The greater the range, the greater the player.

As a pianist, my musical accomplishment is limited to chopsticks. On a good day, I might be able to find middle C.

For my wife, after some tinkering, she can learn to play fairly complex songs. She can tune her guitar, sing along as she plays, and is good enough to teach our children.

A world-class pianist can play amazing complex songs. The piano seems to come alive in their hands. Every technique is mastered. Each hammering of the kBlog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2eys is intentional. Everything ringing with a divine sound. 

Emotional Intelligence works the same way. Emotionally immature people have a very limited range of keys to play from. Usually, they are the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A situation arises, and their keystrokes are limited. Everything triggers them to respond in simplistic ways. 

I knew a man like this once. Though physically mature, the emotional range was limited. Within a split-second, he could go from happiness to anger. Worse than that (as someone who claimed to be a leader), there was little desire to change.

“I’m just this way. I’ve always been this way, I’ll always be this way. “

This limiting belief and limited emotional capacity will limit his leadership capacity.

Expanding The Emotional Range

Expanding emotional range happens with practice. Like each new key on the keyboard that a pianist can play, emotional range equips the leader for more situations.

Think of a strong emotion like anger. Those with limited emotional capacity experience lots of anger. The lack of self-awareness leads to them repeatedly pounding the same key over and over again.

They get cut off in traffic and are angry.

The restaurant takes too long to cook their food and they are angry.

Their child leaves their shoes in the middle of the floor and they are angry.

They are passed over for a promotion and are angry.

Their favorite team loses in the championship game and they are angry.

Bothered by the amount of trash in the local park, they are angry.

Like a new piano player, they keep hitting the same note. Always angry, always looking for a reason to explode, always at the ready to let everyone know how they feel.

In contrast to this, there are ranges of anger: annoyance, frustration, furious, exasperated, and bitter are a few examples. Each is a different key to more adequately express the current emotion.

Do your child’s shoes in the middle of the floor really make you angry or are you annoyed because you tripped over them?

Does the missed promotion make you exasperated because you worked hard and thought you earned it?

The more keys that are available to us as leaders, the better we can navigate the situations around us.

Continual Growth

The thing about leadership is that it is never a finished journey. New experiences and new insights lead to new emotional experiences.

This means new words.

New emotional keys we get to play.

And our viewpoint determines our destination.

Are these obstacles, or opportunities?

Join us next week as we continue our look at the seven areas of leadership health.

 

Looking to grow your Emotional Intelligence? Take the Test.