What should you sacrifice as a leader?

This is where I wrote this message:

Seminyak, Bali

After speaking at a conference in Bali, I booked in a few days to rest and let the brain re-calibrate. It has done wonders for the body, heart, and soul. I am so grateful for my life, and for those who helped make this life possible.

For my Australian and New Zealand readers, I wish you well on this ANZAC Day. [ANZAC is a commemoration of the fateful and disastrous landing at Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. It is a sobering reminder of the cost of war: young lives lost]. On this day, as well as Remembrance Day, I think of my grandparents, all four of whom lived through the Second World War. The shadow of it haunted their steps and shaped the lens of their life. Much was sacrificed during the war. For my maternal grandparents, their ability to cope with life’s disasters without alcohol was one of them. They sacrificed sobriety to the spectre of war.

War has not ended in this world, and the call to sacrifice life for a cause remains ever present. For most of us reading this message, leadership rarely calls us to pledge our lives. We remain comfortable in our largely peaceful corner of the world.

As a global thinker and citizen, we ought to know what we would lay down our lives for. Is there anything for which you would make the ultimate sacrifice? My grandparents went to war for King, country, and a way of life. They endured war so they could have peace, freedom and choices of their own making. For what would you take up arms?

Sacrifice in leadership comes with the territory. It’s one of the main reasons that not every one should lead others: sacrifice is a concept and action that requires great maturity and self awareness. Not all are ready for this kind of surrender.

What should we sacrifice as leaders?

Selfishness. One cannot be a leader if one is driven by selfishness. To be a leader, our thoughts are on those who would follow us and support the cause we all rally behind. Selfishness has no part to play here. The distinction should be made around the self-first concept. Self-sacrifice is martyrdom, and is not always necessary or helpful. Self-first as a concept is where we tend to our own needs (like sleep, rest, exercise, health, well-being) so there is more of us to give. We need to look after ourselves if we are to live to serve another day.

Invisibility. To lead is to make a stand, to be seen and heard for the sake of what we believe and who we serve. Invisibility keeps us hidden, inspiring no one and encouraging nothing. We do not need to lead from the front as a hero; what we do need is to be a visible and vocal presence of encouragement. We need to be seen to model what we believe. Integrity is when action reflects thought and words.

Fear of criticism. Actually, many fears need to be sacrificed: fear of making a mistake, of letting others down, of not living up to expectations, of being found wanting. As leaders, we will make mistakes, we will disappoint others, and we may find ourselves short of skill or capacity to do the job. Leadership is knowing all this, and doing our best anyway, because we believe that our petty fears are not enough to stand by and let what matters go unsupported. There is something bigger than us that calls us to sacrifice our fears.

Feeling like a fraud. Everyone has a first day on the job. We all needed to learn how to walk as babies. When we fell down as toddlers, did we feel like frauds as humans? The essence of our humanity is in getting up again and trying once more. The longing for growth and contribution is the fabric of leadership. At this altar we may leave the shackles of fraud.

Hope. Hope is an emotion for those who feel powerless and victims in life’s wake. It is for those who wait to be rescued. As leaders, we do not waste energy in a lament of hope; we forge our own path, seeking a way through turmoil with effort and focus. We can replace hope with determination, conviction, and grit.

What do you sacrifice as a leader? What is the cause that you dedicate your life to?