Too many of us have become domesticated. We are so persistently taught how to figure out how to please others to get what they tell us we should want that… we lose track of ourselves. We never learn what we deeply want.
I have found this to be profoundly true for leaders. They are always focusing on what their investors want, analysts want, or bankers want.
They listen constantly to what their own senior team wants, their employees want, and what their customers want. But simply bundling up this huge pile of wants into a business that you could actually run is prescription for relentless stress and mediocre results. The leaders we most admire are clear on what they want and single-mindedly pursue it. I know, that could sound selfish and willful, which is exactly the kind of leader we don’t admire. So what do I mean exactly? Well, I am defining deep intrinsic desires as wants.
I am referring to enriching and improving the lives of people by making a valued difference. The difference perhaps only you can make. What your banker or investors want is to make a lot of money. Your employees want generous pay and few demands. Your customers want a deal. What leader can become great listening to those wants? Instead ask yourself, “What is the greatest thing I could do?” Walt Disney famously said, “I don’t make movies to make money; I make money to make movies.” That says it all.
His leadership had a purpose derived from his deepest desire to create extraordinary experiences to make people happy. This Disney style, purpose driven leadership is what we all admire. When Blake Mycoskie started TOMS shoes in order to put shoes on barefoot children, most people though he would fail. Instead he has sold over 20 million pairs of shoes so he could give away an equal number.
When Howard Schultz wanted to unite humanitarian values to a five-dollar latte, everyone thought he was foolish. When Richard Branson wanted to start hundreds of companies to disrupt hundreds of markets, true professionals thought he was insane. When Zappos’ Tony Hsieh started selling happiness in the form of a transaction to buy shoes, he was ridiculed. It’s interesting, isn’t it?
These business leaders are household names. These are leaders we admire. Meanwhile the army of technocrats and financial engineers that run most companies are invisible. Many of them operate like robots playing with PowerPoints and spreadsheets as if they were all the mattered. These hard changing people aren’t bad, but they are often disconnected from their own healthy desire to really do something that matters. Do something you believe in so deeply you are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed so you can make your difference.
You don’t have to be a leader to fall into the trap of living someone else’s life. All you need to do to lose your own way is not look inside and notice what you are doing, saying, and learning when you are most alive. What the world needs most is not a better, cheaper version of what we already have.
What the world truly needs from you is to show up every day and do what you are uniquely designed to do and make it extraordinary. What the world needs for each of us is to invest ourselves in our most worthy purpose and not quit. For Walt Disney it was making movies. What is it for you?