Done, But Not Finished

One of the curious behaviors of so many organizational leaders is their constant preoccupation with being finished. Personal organizers that will help such individuals become finished seem to be breeding on the web and there are even those that come in fine leather and promise the carrier that he or she will do things first and come in (from where I’m not sure) on time.

The thought or desire of being finished often carries with it the sense of not having to do that again, whatever “that” is. Many examples abound:

  • Having enough employees
  • Having all excellent employees
  • Having a clean desk
  • Not having to take work home
  • Not waking up in the middle of the night because of unresolved problems, etc.

It seems that these leaders want to have a final sense of conclusion, and then everything will be all right.

The thought that crosses my mind is that we as human beings are never finished and in fact, by the very nature of our humanity, we cannot be finished.

For example, there are those couples who believe their responsibilities and worries as parents will be finished when their children grow up and develop homes of their own. Ask anyone in their mid-life who has grown children if their parenting role is finished. I have yet to meet someone who has said yes.

So, what is the alternative? What works for me is to consider the issue from another perspective–to have a sense and perspective of when something is done. It may seem trivial, but consider the realm of food preparation for a helpful insight. Food is “done” when it is sufficiently cooked.

What’s intriguing in the context of leadership is to grapple with the concept of “sufficient.” It is a dynamic concept that varies from one venue to another.

Understanding that, we can then deal realistically with such basic issues as when is, for example, a particular memorandum or report done? When is a strategic plan done? When is this blog done?

To understand that we as human creatures will live and die without being finished is to be encouraged, because it allows us to shed unrealistic burdens of self-imposed responsibility, doubt and guilt. No one has or will leave this earth being finished. Accepting this notion allows us to more realistically concentrate on getting things done.




Proverbs 26:1 (TPT)


It is totally out of place to promote and honor a fool, just like it’s out of place to have snow in the summer and rain at harvest time.



Can't Not Do

  The Joy of Leadership

Tal Ben-Shahar & Angus Ridgway, Wiley (2017)

If you are interested in both organizational leadership and positive psychology, and desire to do better as a leader, The Joy of Leadership is for you. Written in 2017 by former Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar and former McKinsey & Company leadership consultant Angus Ridgway, it is the product of their new organization Potentialife.

As you will find in the opening of the book, the authors are committed to the belief that “the core, the essence of effective leadership is personal flourishing.” Flourishing, as you may know, happens when we are living the best version of our lives, including work. It’s when we are using our strengths, experiencing meaning, enjoying emotional well being and happiness. Floundering, on the other hand, occurs when you are experiencing life with difficulty, struggling to make decisions, lack energy and confidence – just limping along.

The first part of the book concludes with the basics for the remainder, in which they describe six commonly held myths of leadership. Tal Ben-Shahar and Angus Ridgway contend that a comparison of leaders who are flourishing with those who are floundering across dimensions such as relationships, productivity and engagement is as high as ten-fold, hence they refer to these leaders as “10X leaders.”

Part II of the book offers an explanation of the five characteristics of 10X leaders that has emerged from their research. They are remembered through the acronym SHARP:

Strengths—Focusing on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
Health—Balancing stress with rewards of rest and recovery.
Absorption—Are present and immersed in the work they are doing.
Relationships—Always striving to be authentic and bringing out the best in others.
Purpose—Finding meaning and making a commitment to their work.

The last three chapters of the book offer suggestions and recommendations for sustaining the SHARP advantage and exploring joyful leadership.

Each of the five chapters that make up the SHARP platform are interesting and useful. What follows is an insight from the chapter on Health, which I share to further your interest in reading the book.

Today there are many authors and consultants who suggest that our work, or for that matter our lives, are to be seen as a marathon. We just need to find the right pace and stick to it.

The authors offer an alternative perspective with its supporting research. They assert that “managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal.” (Loehr & Schwartz) “We need to see ourselves as sprinters, especially in the work place and after those taxing periods of exertion need to disengage, rest and recover.”

I think this is solid advice, but would even go a step further and suggest, based on my track and life experiences, that we should see ourselves as sprinters in a hurdle race. Unlike a 400 meter hurdle race, however, we don’t always know the length of the race or the number of hurdles. We just need to know they are there.

If you are curious about curiosity this book is for you.

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