Leading with fulfilment
“Fulfilment is a feeling of satisfaction that you get from doing or achieving something, especially something useful.” – Collins Dictionary
This week Steve and I are talking with a group of school leaders in Rolleston (just south of Christchurch). The theme for the discussion is “leading with fulfilment” and I have been floating the topic around in my head in preparation.
What does it mean to lead with fulfilment?
Fulfilment can be a pretty broad term when applied to a group of people. Each of us have things that we value more or less and these things often change as life changes around us. A beginning leader might gain fulfilment from arriving at the end of their first Term in a role without major drama. Someone with a few years under their belt might feel this when a 3-4 year plan comes to fruition. Someone else may feel fulfilment from an excellent external review– there is variation!
As what constitutes fulfilment is so individual, perhaps one way to progress the conversation is to focus on a key message of the Forty Hour Project – balance.
You are a leader and a person. Neither fact is mutually exclusive and if done deliberately, both sides can complement and strengthen each other. A leader who puts all their finite time and energy into their work will, sooner or later, be impacted negatively by this imbalance. Your body doesn’t care that you’ve decided exercise and sleep aren’t a priority, it will simply stop working properly over time. If you are lucky it will take a few years, but not everyone is lucky.
Likewise, a person who neglects important parts of their role will cease to be effective. In a perfect world you could spend as much time as you like ensuring your human needs are met, but we don’t live in a perfect world. As leaders, we are responsible to and for others, have important work to progress, and sometimes that has to take priority.
If you can find a healthy balance between these competing needs, you have a much better chance of feeling fulfilment in your role. The opposite, to operate with imbalance, opens the door to resentment and frustration.
So, balance is key. It’s about acknowledging and respecting a healthy mix of the need to fulfil your leader’s role and your needs as a human.
. . .
Of course, good intentions without a little deliberate strategy will likely stay just that.
One way to start rearranging your reality is to make a couple of lists. I’ve added examples that people have shared over time, but you are the one who knows yourself best and your lists may be quite different.
Stuff I need to stop doing:
Accepting poor sleep
Saying “yes” to everyone
Doing everything yourself
Treating all work as equal
Working on multiple things at the same time
Being the last to leave site daily
Saying you are “busy”
Setting an unbalanced example
Working to full capacity all the time
Stuff I need to start doing:
Use the science to sleep better
Saying “no” (particularly to “busy work”)
Delegating and empowering others
Doing the important work most of the time
Leaving when you’ve done enough
Being smarter about energy use
If you look at any of the items in the lists above and feel yourself mentally saying, “I can’t do that”, my response would be “why not?” Your mode of operating as a leader right now was not mandated by anyone. The Ministry of Education hasn’t told you how to do your job – you made (and make) those decisions yourself. Which means you can choose better.
If you lead in a balanced and hence sustainable way, you give yourself so much more chance of feeling the deep satisfaction – fulfilment – that comes from making an impact as a leader. With the traditional school “Madvember” about to start, now is a perfect time to make change.