I like a quote an entrepreneur friend recently used to describe why he was investing so heavily in employees to improve their work experience -
“What We Do in Life Echoes in Eternity.”
What you create in business or your personal life continues to vibrate out, in small or big ways.
One of my favorite writers, David Brooks, said in a speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival in July, that to build a powerful impact on people, leaders will be more effective if they pursue the development of moral depth. That’s a bold statement coming from a New York Times columnist. What does Brooks mean by this and how does it apply to increasing the impact you can have on others as a leader?
Brooks says we live out two competing value sets, which he refers to as “resume values” and “eulogy values.” Resume values are centered around achievement, winning, competing, getting high marks, and being at the top of the class. Eulogy values are what friends and family will voice at your funeral. For instance, when my dad past away at 90 years of age, we all sat around the family room after the funeral and reminisced on great sayings from dad. The themes were love, sacrifice, perseverance through suffering, a “never give up” spirit, dedication to family, and integrity in all things. For dad, integrity meant that any time you make a choice to compromise what you know is right, even if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, you diminish your soul. (Now that is a deep thought worth pondering.)
Eulogy values vector at a different plain than achievement values, and if underdeveloped or compartmentalized between work and family, they leave a leader stranded in the shallows of moral character. We all have met the stranded leaders. Work is ALL about winning, it’s all about achieving, and it’s all about dominating. Certainly resume values are important and critical for a life well lived, but if that’s your core focus, it leaves a hollow feeling in the connection with others. People with moral depth can feel the lack of heart or “soulishness.” It just feels shallow.
The best leaders I have met are the leaders who integrate resume values and eulogy values first within themselves and then within their company culture. They are comfortable talking about love and humility and also being aggressive and willing to fight hard when necessary for what is right. Service to others who are vulnerable or who need assistance is a given. Respect and careful listening to each and every person, no matter where they sit in the organization, is a given. The leader understands the value of each “touch point” with a person and how that “touch point” will shape the company’s culture for the better or the worse. These leaders are passionate about doing great things and being great people at the same time. It’s a both/and proposition. For them, there is no other choice but to pursue relentlessly a depth of moral character, and as a result, build a powerful voice that echoes into the future. It’s not corny, it’s not ethereal. In fact, it’s the most practical and most basic step a person can take to becoming not just a successful leader, but a great leader.
Questions for a team discussion -
1. What would you say are the three most important eulogy values you aspire to?
2. How do you as a leader integrate these three values into the workplace?
3. What one character quality of the eulogy values do you want to develop more of?