My source of inspiration for these ideas came from church last Sunday when our minister announced the book of the month – “The Road to Character” by David Brooks. He read a small passage from the beginning of the book that not only spurred my desire to buy this book and read more, but also start pondering what it truly means to be successful.
“Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being – whether you are kind, brave, honest, or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.
Most of us would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues, but I confess that for long stretches of my life I’ve spent more time thinking about the latter than the former. Our education system is certainly oriented around the resume virtues more than the eulogy ones. Public conversation is, too – the self-help tips in magazines, the nonfiction bestsellers. Most of us have clearer strategies for how to achieve career success than we do for how to develop a profound character.” (David Brooks)
Because I write primarily for business leaders and owners, I want to explore a different view of success – one that is based on spirituality. Whether you believe in God, the Universe, nature, something else, or nothing at all, these concepts can still be applied to achieve what David Brooks refers to as “eulogy success.” I do believe that leaders grounded in these habits can have a significant impact on the world.
Tame the Ego
Ah, the ego. It has a mind of its own, and dare I say, a profoundly different purpose than the spiritual self. It is in place to protect, to inflate, and to accomplish at all costs. It’s the source of competitiveness, preoccupation with self, and the hungry desire to achieve external greatness. While the brain requires us to use our ego for good reason, an overactive ego stands in the way of humility. Without humility, we cannot see that there’s a lot we don’t know, a lot that is wrong, and a lot that we need to learn.
Let’s face it. Life is messy. We are messy. That’s the nature of human beings. We have weaknesses. Our plans have flaws. Our employees make mistakes. Customers rub us the wrong way. And it’s all okay. Imperfection should be celebrated. It creates both the internal and external struggle that brings about change. Successful leaders are willing to go through the struggle, learn from it and come out better. But they are also adept at having compassion for imperfection, knowing that it is part of the human experience.
Live with Purpose
Throughout my coach training, one of the concepts I often helped my clients understand is what it means to find and live their purpose. I think there is a dual definition of what this means. From an external standpoint, your purpose can be defined as using your strengths and your passions to make a difference in the world. This is a good thing because it focuses our natural inclinations on making the world a better place. But I think there is a greater purpose we all have, and that is to struggle against our inner selves and build ourselves morally and spiritually.
Build your Inner Character
When you think about leaders you admire, what characteristics come to mind? Is it that they make a lot of money, achieved great success, or have earned the popularity and fame? Or is it the intangible virtues like love, resiliency, humility, kindness, joy, peace, balance, respect or self-discipline that attract you to these leaders? I want to challenge you to build in yourself the eulogy virtues, and not the resume virtues. Be the leader that makes you rest easy on your pillow each night – the kind that creates a quiet resolve within yourself. Be willing to ask yourself each day, “How can I be a better person? What character mistakes did I make today? How will I fix those for tomorrow?”
Be in Service to Others
Coming from a place of service is far different than one of self-achievement. And when your attitude is in the right place, it is far more rewarding. Some “leaders” think others should be in service to them – comes with the territory of being the “boss.” But I think great leaders have an attitude of service – to their staff members, their customers, their families, the community, and the world. “How can I help you?” and “What can I do for you today?” are the central mindsets of leaders who are committed to service. No task is beneath them. Building up humanity and practicing kindness goes a long way towards creating a more loving and spiritual world.
Cultivate Deep Relationships
David Brooks says, “The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths.” Isn’t that the truth? If we aren’t willing to slow down, listen and practice vulnerability, it is nearly impossible to cultivate deep relationships. One of the habits my spouse has that I truly admire is her willingness to pick up the phone to check in with someone whenever thoughts of him/her cross her mind. She will say to me “Mr. Smith was on my mind today. I need to call him and see how things are going for him.” Many people get too busy and caught up in their own lives to take time for the simple, but meaningful everyday conversations with people. The fear of vulnerability and exposing one’s fears, weaknesses and struggles just perpetuates superficial relationships. Be genuinely curious about and compassionate towards yourself and your fellow human being. Talk about the deeper issues in life and you will soon find yourself experiencing the richness of deep relationships.
Dave Jolly, a veterinarian, said, “The heart cannot be taught in a classroom intellectually, to students mechanically taking notes. Good, wise hearts are obtained through lifetimes of diligent effort to dig deep within and heal lifetimes of scars. You can’t teach it or email it or tweet it. It has to be discovered within the depths of one’s own heart when a person is finally ready to go looking for it, and not before.” Imagine the power of a leader who is heart-driven – one that has a good, wise heart. Create a vision from your heart. Speak from your heart. Do things from your heart. Tend to the hearts of others. Honor the feelings in your heart. Follow the passion of your heart. Heart-driven leaders attract followers with ease because everyone needs love.
David Brooks summarizes these ideas perfectly:
“Occasionally, even today, you come across certain people who seem to possess an impressive inner cohesion. They are not leading fragmented, scattershot lives. They have achieved inner integration. They are calm, settled, and rooted. They are not blown off course by storms. They don’t crumble in adversity. Their minds are consistent and their hearts are dependable. Their virtues are not the blooming virtues you see in smart college students; they are the ripening virtues you see in people who have lived a little and have learned from joy and pain.”
When you see this person, you will see a great leader.
Lori Young is a freelance writer, professional coach, and owner of Virtual Office Manager. She is in service to small business owners, helping them live their purpose, manage and build their business while making more time for the relationships that matter to them.
7 Spiritual Habits that Foster Leadership Success
December 7, 2017