One of the comments I regularly pass along to emerging leader groups is: “Put your heart and soul into the work of people and one day you will look back and marvel at the results.” And while I know this to be true—I also understand the individuals I’m sharing it with have little context to appreciate the profundity of the message. Like a person yearning for travel, the pictures in the magazines are beautiful but pale in comparison to making the journey and placing oneself in the scene. The same goes for the leadership opportunity.

This inaugural article for my new feature, The Leadership Opportunity, was prompted by a recent program that brought together a group of experienced and emerging leaders.

The passion the experienced leaders displayed for their work and their theme of “leadership offers the opportunity to create” was powerful. Instead of sugar-coating the realities and crucibles of their experiences, they described their trials as necessary steps in pursuit of growing people, pursuing a mission, and growing organizations.

The excitement expressed by the emerging (and younger) professionals for the work of leading was inspirational. One individual offered, “While I know this won’t be easy, I firmly believe that if enough of us get this right, we can change the world for the better.”

Darned right it’s not easy. But nothing worth doing comes easy in this world. And I checked: the world can use a bit of changing for the better.

The Leadership Opportunity—The Arc of the Leader’s Story

While my Leadership Caffeine series puts the verb phrases into the work of leading, The Leadership Opportunity series will focus on describing the different elements and phases of the journey. Borrowing a term from the world of literature, I intend to chronicle the arc of the leader’s story, and along the way, share stories and examples that motivate, inspire and encourage us to persevere. As part of the journey, we’ll search for clues to surviving and thriving in this challenging role in an era of change and uncertainty.

What’s Your Leadership Opportunity?

At a high level, the leadership opportunity for anyone committing to this path is the ability to create. This high-order calling is on the same plane as those aspiring to write novels, paint pictures, compose music, and pursue just about any endeavor to fashion something out of an idea.

Great leaders create jobs, teams, products, services, markets, and happy stakeholders. Yet, the leader’s work of creation goes much deeper and broader than just the outward, measurable deliverables.

The leadership opportunity is to help others create and achieve things they never believed possible. Of course, you won’t know until much later if it worked, but that’s part of the adventure.

Your leadership opportunity is to push yourself beyond your own perceived limitations and in the process discover who you are and what you are capable of in this world.

And while the above two are profoundly important, I love that the leadership opportunity is much about forming something from nothing more than your ideas and the ideas of those around you. Ideas represent the leader’s medium for creation. Ideas put humans on the moon, cure diseases, save lives, build bridges and spark revolutions.

Where Practicality Meets Noble Calling:

Few come to the work of leadership with much more than the drive to get ahead. However, it’s easy when writing about this topic to lose track of the reality of the work and fall victim to the trap of leadership as some noble endeavor filled with profound moments and a sense of a higher calling. In fact, most of the work of leading involves the grind-it-out, get-it-done-through-others hard work in pursuit of something. It’s only upon reflection where we get to consider there’s something more significant about the work of leadership than just “getting it done.”

A higher-order sense of the potential of the work of leadership work is rocket fuel for motivation. And this is what I want to pay forward via The Leadership Opportunity.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I’ve owned driving results through others for almost my entire working life. However, for me, the leadership opportunity is defined not by the chase for numbers but by the work of creating the circumstances for great people to do remarkable things in their lives and careers. Let’s push this idea forward, and maybe we’ll change the world.

Art's Signature