Save the Tiger: Have you found meaning in your work?
“What do you want, Harry?”
“What do I want? Another season.”— Harry Stoner, Save the Tiger
Save the Tiger is a 1973 film about moral conflict in contemporary America. Harry Stoner, the main protagonist played by Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon, is successful by most external measures yet is on the edge of ruin as he struggles to find significance, inspiration, and meaning in his life. He wants more than just to survive. Indeed, he wants to be in love with something. “Anything,” he says. “An idea. A dog. A cat…something!” But when asked, “What do you want, Harry?” his only response is, “What do I want? Another season.”
Over the years, practitioners of The Leadership Challenge® have consistently found that the Practice both new and experienced leaders find most difficult to master is Inspire a Shared Vision. At the same time, it’s been found that this is also the Practice many people feel most distinguishes a “leader” from simply another “trusted associate.” Clearly, the ability to inspire is critical to leadership. But, what exactly does it take to inspire with a compelling, shared vision? What does that look like?
As practitioners of The Leadership Challenge, we describe it as “Envisioning the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities” and “Enlisting others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.” However, before anyone can envision “exciting” or “ennobling” possibilities in their work they first have to be able to see meaning in their work. They have to be able to articulate to others what the meaning is in the work that they do. Think of this as one of the first steps on the path to having a vision.
Part of experiencing The Leadership Challenge is receiving feedback via the highly-validated, 360-degree LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory®. And one of the behaviors the LPI measures which demonstrates the ability to inspire is “Speaks with conviction about the meaning of work.” But how many of us can do that? How many of us, if pressed like Harry Stoner, could only answer the question, “What do you want?” with “Another season.”?
If you were asked what you want for your team, your company, or your clients, what would you answer: Another quarter? Another year? Another season?
Leaders in the world of business often have trouble being visionaries within their organizations—and that often is a result of an inability to see meaning in their work. If you can’t explain what your work means to you, you probably can’t explain it to anyone else either. If your work simply represents a paycheck, it will no doubt mean no more than that to the people who report to you.
I encourage you to find meaning in what you do. Don’t settle for wanting just “another season.” Seek work in which you find significance and purpose.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.
Bruce Wilson is Vice-President of Business Development at FlashPoint, a Global Training Partner of The Leadership Challenge. He designs and implements proven and effective solutions for such key clients as Applied Materials, SanDisk, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He can be reached through www.FlashPointLeadership.com.