Leadership: A Job Or A Calling?

Fork in the Road

Leaders are faced with many decisions that often instill fear and indecision.

This can lead to them staying on a path just because it is there and seems safe while the alternatives seem fraught with uncertainty. When this occurs, here is my advice:

“When you come to the fork in the road, take it…”

Leadership Cross Roads

The executive leader today lives and works at the frontier of constant change and uncertainty. This is place where they are beset with fears and anxieties that we may not be solidly grounded in our actions in today’s crazy world.

As leaders, we work within organizations and people-systems that (though mostly unconsciously) do not want to change or face the facts of a continuously changing and less-forgiving business world.  This is a place where denial and self-deception allows us to ignore or dismiss our awareness of what’s really going on for a more convenient process that operates on our opinions that “somehow what is wrong is not our fault.”

We then convert our opinions into what we call knowledge.

Then with this new knowledge of reality we can set up false truths when the complex, scary, risky and sticky organizational issues pop up.

Dead End Road

Dead EndBy operating with these ego protecting “truths,” we can easily smooth over, ignore and rationalize that something or someone else is failing us and preventing us, our organization, our people, etc. from getting what we say we really want out of our work and life.

On this Road of False Truths that we devoutly believe, our egos are safe so we tell ourselves we are doing all we can.  Even though we get less of everything that we say we really want, it’s a safe and comfortable armor we’ve built for ourselves.

The Road of False Truths is intentionally taken so we can justify why we choose to avoid our responsibilities and stand by with only a little guilt as our company starts to decline. All the while we feel more than competent in how we are doing ourselves as leaders because we’re not responsible for what is going wrong.  Are we?

Is it really harder to do things right than it is to do things wrong?

Are we really in the game to avoid responsibility through false truths and take more than we give, if we can?

A Job or Calling?

Most would agree that leadership is about being more so than doing. So with that, this begs the question:

Is leadership a job or a calling?

If we decide that it is our calling and obligation as leaders to live on this unpredictable frontier, we do not want to go back. We must take a path that requires courage. We must take an optimistic and hopeful point-of-view. When we do this, a new adventure presents itself in each new assignment.

What we stand for can no longer be compromised even when the complex, high risk, scary and sticky issues are right in front of us.

It is at this point that we learn that the ground in front of us is solid and can easily support us as we fully engage in our work.  We have now reached the proverbial Fork in the Road ahead.  This road is one intentionally less taken because it requires that we let go of our egocentric needs, our illusions of control and safety and security, our rationalizations that we are doing great jobs to help our companies and our people excel.

When we let go of fear and take that fork in the road, most often we are dedicating ourselves to the practice of conscious grow and excellence in our work and life. 

A Road Less Traveled

The Road of Self Awareness

This Road of Awareness teaches us that the nobility of leadership is in confronting the sticky and difficult issues that we have avoided for so long.

Leadership is a path of sacrifice and service.

In choosing the path of leadership we embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of organizational life with gratitude.  Most leaders want to do good, embrace positive values and put the organization’s need before their own.  But it takes courage and the character to confront the system and ourselves in order to truly make a difference in a global sense.

Pioneering Spirit

That’s why we have so few true leaders at any one time in our companies.  Only a few are able to speak to the internal (soft) issues with the same conviction that they speak to the hard (business) issues and make both areas matter at the same time.

True leaders who can take the road less traveled and speak to both the soft and hard issues are like beacons who show the way to the rest of us.

Like warriors, they are determined to fight to the end for their noble purpose.  These are the fearless pioneers who are unwilling to accept an outcome where they “gain the world but lose their souls.”

So what are you going to do in your leadership role? Will you wake up and join those who live courageously, or live in your armor like a turtle?  What’s your legacy going to be?  Who are you, really? What are you going to do at your next fork in the road? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with Performance Improvement, Change Mgmt Consulting & Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Web

Image Sources: metronetiq.com

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9 responses to “Leadership: A Job Or A Calling?

  1. Pingback: Leadership: Gettin’ Stuff Done Without Using Your Hands « Linked 2 Leadership·

  2. I agree with most of what you say. However, circumstances have a role to play in your success or failure as a leader. You cannot discount luck.


    • Thanks for your insightful comments. I agree that luck and circumstance can be major factors in success in work and life. To me, that is why a deep understanding of the concept of grace is one of the key factors for leaders in leading with kindness and compassion and in getting over ourselves. As leaders evolve and achieve higher states of consciousness this perspective (of what we really control) helps us stay emotionally balanced in good times and in bad. – Doug


  3. Nice post, Doug and so true. Leaders should be… well… leaders. This is assuming they have competence in their area of expertise. Otherwise they’ll lead you down the road less traveled and right over the cliff.


    • Thanks DJ. Agree. The march to the rim of the Grand Canyon seems to be more common that most would expect. I hope all is well…




  4. So, how many leaders are so lacking in self-awareness that they don’t realize that they lack self-awareness? And, who is going to tell the CEO that s/he is not self aware? Most likely not a subordinate, especially if they have witnessed overt, or worse, subtle retaliation inflicted on a peer for such ‘threatening’ behavior. And just as unlikely, it won’t come from the OD consultant brought in to create a higher performing system, as they will delude themselves into thinking that they can at least make things better if they don’t pull the pin on the grenade.

    As to job or calling, it’s probably a ‘both/and’. My experience has been that my personal (life, spirit) journey has made me an ever-improving leader. I have gradually put my ego aside and in doing so lost a lot of fear that inhibited my ability to embrace leadership as a calling.


    • Thanks for the comments Chris. Agree, if you don’t know what you don’t know it’s a slippery slope. Sometimes these folks will seek outside help to increase their chances of waking up to new levels of awareness and perspectives. We both know that courage is required to make a difference but to quote one of our colleagues, “fear of unemployment doth make cowards of us all.” I’m hoping that the many colleagues who understand my message will recommit to take up the practice of personal and professional growth at a deeper level. Call me a dreamer… Doug


  5. A true leader is one with vision, that can lead others through their example, through challenge and adversity, to the desired result. We live in a society where it is so easy to give up on everything and not take a stand for anything. Success comes from those that take a firm stand for a worthy vision, and don’t waiver in the face of adversity, finding solutions where others only see the challenge, and are willing to lead from the front as an example for others to follow. This quality changes peoples lives in a positive way, which is a very rewarding part of the leadership role we take.


    • Hello Debbie,

      Sincere apologies for the slow response. Thank you for your comments. I agree with your assessment of what a true leader can (and is obligated to) accomplish. The rewards for getting it right are what motivates us and gives us the courage to stand for certain principles in being who we are in our work. We awaken, determine what matters and pursue a noble purpose. Knowing that what we stand for is worthy of support and how we do our work can transform peoples lives and deepen their understanding of development and what they can accomplish and contribute in work and life.

      Your comments resonate with me and are much appreciated.

      All best,



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