We all remember that wonderful children’s rhyme that was supposed to define all of our career choices. I was on board with “rich man,” but felt the other choices were a little limiting. I ended up going down the “chief” route, but not in the way that the nursery jingle forecasted! I ended up a “corporate chief!”
I have been privileged to be a CEO twice, a COO once, and a VP five times. I have served across multiple industries and have been in both the private and the non-profit sectors. It has been an enriching experience, having the opportunity to meet wonderful people and meet their needs through technology solutions.
As a senior executive, I have had plenty of times where I questioned what my professional purpose was. Leadership of course, came to mind first! Then there had to be somebody to make all of the tough decisions; surely that was my intended role! Oh, and who can forget management? Someone had to be greasing the wheels of the business, assuring that all was on track and working. That had to be in my job description somewhere!
I went back to the first word in my title; I was a “chief.” Just what did that mean after all? My thoughts kept returning to leadership. Surely my purpose had to be a little more indirect than I suspected. I was not there to run a business. Rather, I was there to run the people who ran the business. That hypothesis just did not ring true with me.
Was my reason for being there to motivate my staff? That note seemed to ring a little more in tune. Still, I was not satisfied with where my mind was going. Motivation is something that comes from within each individual; it cannot be stoked from outside. No, the word I was looking for was “inspiration.” If I could inspire my workers, through word and deed; they in turn would translate it into personal motivation. It was absolutely clear now. As a “chief” I was destined to create inspiration amongst my tribe!
I adopted an attitude that I was leading a team. I would lay down the framework for their work, painting a goal to be reached. I would then sit back and let them formulate the map that would lead us to the desired destination. From time to time I would pick up those who had fallen, and mentor those still standing to carry on! If we failed, then the onus was on me. If we succeeded, they did it on their own.
To date, I have mentored over a half a dozen employees who are now C-level executives. I have forged leaders that are making a true impact in their chosen industries. These people, in turn, are nurturing the next generation of business leaders!
Come to think of it, maybe I did become the “rich man” after all!