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First pay your bills, then love your work

Follow this or any other website dealing with profesional life or organizational leadership and you quickly see a common theme of encourging individuals to focus on self actualization, leaders to focus on serving followers and employees to live their passion through their work. Doing the job, taking responsability for deliverables and earning a living appear to be minor spinoffs that may, or may not, come from the first set of objectives. All of which I find somewhat amusing since a large part of my career has involved picking up after people too busy self actualizing to actually do their jobs, pulling together deliverables (often at the last minute) for leaders too timid to actually make a decision, and paying the mortgage for a near relative who spent 20 years in a low level dead end job because she loved going to work every day at an organization that treated her like family right up until they laid her off 5 years short of early SS eligibility with a minimal pension and no marketable job skills.

I have to wonder if the entire field of leadership, occupational and life coaching might be missing the need to establish firm foundations before moving to more lofty goals. Should young professionals be encouraged to focus on creativity or dependability? Should leaders’ first priority be empowering the personal development of their subordinates or ensuring their job security by producing deliverables customers value? Should employees’ desire for work/life balance and loving their job come before paying their bills?

None of these are mutually exclusive. But in my experience; the dependable subordinate who shows up, shuts up and steps up is the one most likely to earn opportunities to express their creativity. The leader who consistantly achieves organizational objectives on schedule, within budget and to standard is the one best able to reward their team and empower them to fully develop themselves. The employee who understands the need to pay their own mortgage, provide for their own retirement and earn a little extra to enjoy a good life is the one most likely to actually acquire the skills and negotiate the hiring process to land a job that compensates their spirit as well as their bank account.

Careers, organizations, leaders and jobs often resemble skyscrapers. The visable superstructure soaring toward the clouds may be impressive; but they quickly topple over without a solid foundation unseen beneath the surface. Perhaps those of us who write, read, comment or study these subjects should make a bit more effort to exchange ideas on establishing firm foundations. It might help us get moving with the rest of the good ideas.

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