When I moved to Portland Oregon back in 2010, my intentions were to exist in a state of “semi-retirement” – that is, blending a little bit of work with a lot more down time.
After all, I had earned it, having just finished a 28 year run as a CPA, cable company VP of Operations, football stadium project manager, VP of Development for another cable company, and finally, a cable company SVP of Operations.
With my last job as SVP I had fully refined myself as a More Human Leader and had achieved the “success trifecta” – a successful business, a happy team, and a fulfilled me.
So with all that in my rear view mirror it seemed entirely logical and proper to take it down several notches and just chill out in my new home town in the Pacific Northwest.
But alas, it hasn’t turned out that way. I had forgotten about a couple of things that had been burned into my brain, heart and soul during those 28 years.
Those couple of things were the leadership traits that fueled and sustained me throughout my career, through the good times and the not-so-good times. They were traits that set me apart from other leaders who weren’t as successful, or happy, or fulfilled with their work. They kept the “fire in my belly” every single day I stepped into the leadership arena.
What were those things?
An insatiable intellectual curiosity and a burning desire to make a difference.
Leaders need to always be learning, always be asking questions, and always be fascinated by what others may think are mundane and insignificant facts and figures. Leaders need to love to solve problems driven by this curiosity.
Leaders also have to go beyond just “being the boss”, and desire to make a positive impact on the lives and careers of the people they lead, as well as for the business or enterprise they represent. Difference-makers know that what they say, how they act and what they DO are powerful forces effecting every individual they lead, and channel their decision making through that perspective.
Once those leadership traits are planted and take root, they are strong – very, very strong – deep inside you. And so when your brain tries to rationalize “semi-retirement” as a good thing, it doesn’t succeed.
You just HAVE to keep leading, because you’ve created a sustainable leadership model, built to last (and last) for as long as you will be on this planet.
So as I type this I am as busy as ever, using my sustainable model in several different and new contexts –
- As COO/CFO of Portland handmade goods retailer and music label Tender Loving Empire, a growing company built around the premise that by providing opportunities for artists to be seen and heard, we can strengthen and enrich the communities we serve.
- As co-founder of the non-profit Built Oregon, whose mission is to connect, amplify and accelerate Oregon’s consumer product companies and ecosystem.
- As board chair of SVP Portland, a non-profit centered around venture philanthropy and whose current mission is to ensure that all children in the Portland metro area enter kindergarten with the foundation for learning and life success.
- As a project consultant with Northland Communications, keeping a connection with the cable/broadband industry.
Yep, semi-retirement just didn’t take. Thankfully.
And to the leaders, fledgling leaders, or future leaders out there reading this post today, look for these two things in your heart, head and soul, and if they are there, bring them to the surface, lock them in, infuse your leading every day with them, and build an awesome sustainable leadership model of your own that will be built to last (and last, and last….).