When I’ve too much to do in work and life, I recall my mentor, Cornelia Shipley, saying, “What do you need to be to do what you want to do?” To handle more work may not be accomplished with additional knowledge and skills without a change in how we “be” with the task. Cornelia’s question challenged me to understand how being supports additional doing.
Importance of being
As a former businessperson, most of my career was in management. I followed standards and procedures for my work. Success was achieved because management requires doing projects right. When we execute projects correctly, we follow prescribed paths. We’re tactical and efficient. When goals are clear, we’re rewarded for tactical success.
Leadership, on the other hand, means doing projects right and accomplishing the right things. When we complete projects correctly and misjudge outcomes, we lose opportunities to achieve a higher purpose. As we advance in our careers or life, we face more work with broader goals. It’s not enough to simply do more. In these circumstances, strategy is necessary to achieve a higher purpose.
Being strategic is to lead effectively. Marshall Goldsmith states, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” He describes career advancement from “Star Performer”, who focuses on tactical issues to leadership, which requires strategic thinking. When we lead effectively, we switch from doing to being. Leadership is a state of being to inspire and motivate others towards strategic goals. We become a leader when we are recognized by others as a leader. Our ability to inspire, motivate, and gain recognition by others is a state of being.
Prescribed paths are valuable to Star Performer. They’re not appropriate for leaders and may be detrimental for our career. When we’re promoted to leadership, our focus on ourselves and doing tactical management is less important. These behaviors are replaced the characteristics of being strategic leaders such as an inclusiveness of others. Successful leaders replace “me” with “us” in projects. Leaders balance tactical operations (doing) with strategic thinking (being).
Characteristics of being
Last month a bald eagle soared above US highway 441 as I entered Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Revered across cultures, Eagle is a symbol of strength and good fortune. Her image adorns national and state flags worldwide. We admire Eagle for who she is and what she represents,–– her being. And, her being is more than who she is. Her being includes what we think about her. What may we learn from Eagle?
Eagle soars high above earth. She’s among the highest of flyers. In some cultures, Eagle is thought to touch external spiritual places. And, she descends to earth to accomplish mortal tasks like fishing for food. Eagle selects a mate for life. She nests on the highest tree. Male and female raise the young together. The stronger of her two chicks often pushes the weaker sibling from the nest. Eagle is a hunter and scavenger. Her eyesight is eight times stronger than human’s. She sees prey from great distance and dives to her target. Unlike other birds, eagle looks forward and backward during decent. Hawk and other raptors, in comparison, never remove their eyes from their prey.
Eagle balances characteristics of being with doing (strategy with tactics). However, her presence of being is what inspires us. It’s no surprise the founders of the United States of America selected Eagle to symbolize what America wanted to be. They could have picked Beaver or Turkey who represent characteristics of doing. Instead, they selected Eagle.
How may Eagle illustrate the importance of being? Take a problem or issue before you. Ask yourself, “What do I need to be to do what I want to do?”
If you were Eagle, here’s what you would need to be:
What would it take for you to be strategic like Eagle? Are you ready to move beyond tactics and elevate your vision and focus toward what’s important? What do you need to be to do what you want to do?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.