Question six takes us out of the firm’s mindset and into our own mind and asks us the powerful question: Am I clear on who I am being called to become? Can I become that person in this firm?
This is the first and most important question a prudent leader asks him or herself. It answers the proverbial question, “Is my ladder leaning against the right wall?”
“Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor Frankl
Let’s break the question down.
First, “Am I clear…”
The question asks me to self-reflect on my current state. Do I possess the self-knowledge about the direction I am heading? Am I heading north when I should be heading south? Am I simply going through the motions while stumbling in the dark about who I am as a human being? Am I following the “herd,” living up to someone’ else’s expectations of who I am or captain of my own soul?
Getting clear requires open eyes and fearless introspection of who I am today. Am I climbing the wrong ladder, not climbing at all or well on my way to my summit? Am I letting a past failure shape and direct me negatively? Am I acting arrogantly to protect myself out of insecurity? Am I playing small because I question who I might be to think that I can change the world in a positive and powerful way?
READ: Time to Think
Second, “…I am being called”
Your life has a purpose. Your life demands something from you. As Pope Benedict said, “Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched…” Your God may not be calling you to become Mother Teresa, but make no mistake you are being asked to live outside yourself. It may be a mother, father, teacher, leader, follower or saint. You’ve heard that voice inside your head–not the negative one, the positive one. It’s the voice that simultaneously excites and scares you to death.
Third, “..To become”
Like our firms, we may be who we are at this point in time, but there is a clear expectation that we are on a journey of “becoming” much more. Every relationship, every interaction, every challenge, every success calls us forward to a new level and our new selves. Prudent leaders understand that they are stewards and called to enhance their firm, grow their people, and leave the world in better shape than when they entered it. It’s your job to listen and discern your what your contribution will be.
Magnanimity mandates that we strive to great things.
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. Viktor Frankl
Finally, Can I become that person in this firm?
Cactus does not bloom in a rainforest and a cheetah does not hit its stride in a cage. A firm may offer prestige and financial reward but these are worthless if we abdicate who we are to receive them. Do you love the “game” of business and the Machiavellian pursuit of power or do you prefer collaboration and harmony? Are you driven by organizational dynamism or quiet stability? Money or meaningful work? Do you prefer operational responsibility or client service? Do you want to lead or to be led?
All meaningful growth begins with self-awareness.
Clarity comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes as a quiet voice. Other times it is a two-by-four across your head. Clarity comes to each of us at different stages of our lives. Some children know that they are destined to be a writer, doctor, or president. Some must wait for life’s experience to accumulate. Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78. For others, be it a CEO disillusioned by power and greed, an entrepreneur exasperated by a corporate bureaucracy or an addict bottoming out in a gutter, self-awareness takes a darker form. Make no mistake change and new direction does not happen until we obtain self-awareness and are ready to change.
Prudent leaders are constantly vigilant and self-examining. Each interaction, event, data point, and learning situation is an opportunity to ask Am I clear on whom I am being called to become? Can I become that person in this firm?
Be honest with yourself and have the courage to move on from a firm that does not enable and nurture who you are to become. By sticking around, not only do you harm yourself, you offer those you work with less than they deserve—the best version of yourself.
If you can become that person where you are, get climbing!