We interviewed a man who was a university president and previously a dean of a medical school. He had been purpose driven from a young age and understood how to act as a purpose driven leader. Yet when he became dean he hired a coach. The task of the coach was to tell him over and over that problem solving was not leadership. “An administrator can effectively solve many problems while not advancing the institution at all.” A purpose driven leader understands this and continually orients self and others to purpose. Yet the pull of administrative problem solving never ends.
Most managers become comfortable with solving problems. To be comfort centered is natural. It means we strive to stay on the path of least resistance. We strive to stay in our zone of comfort, to do that which we already know how to do. Such behaviors preserve feelings of safety, security and control and allow us to allocate our energy in efficient ways. Yet over time our comfort zone turns into a prison.
As managers many of us live in such a prison. We call ourselves leaders but we see the management task as problem solving. Our job is to restore order, to return things to normal. We recognize the fact that taking initiative will bring adversity and increase our workload. So we avoid it.
Over time, we become disconnected to the larger, external system. We lose energy and we experience many negative emotions. Being comfort centered we tend to languish and stagnate. We eventually move towards slow, psychological death. It is natural to manage, it is unnatural to be a purpose driven leader.
The challenge of leadership is to become bilingual. The challenge is to simultaneously solve problems, while continually finding purpose. Purpose finders enjoy motivation from within. They choose to grow and to grow others. They do this while continuing to solve the endless problems of administrative life. They continually solve problem while they continually find purpose.