Graduating to Leadership

It’s the month for commencement speeches for this year’s spring graduates from high school and college. Commencement is about applauding or commemorating this learning milestone and also about creating a scenario for life and success from the perspective of a well-known individual who can reflect on the lessons of his or her journey.

If you contemplated what to say as a commencement speaker your objective would be to encourage … To inspire. Is I write this, my own two reflections are: inspiration comes from the heart and personal life stories are reflections or what is most important to you. Brene Brown, professor at the University of Houston says “stories are data with soul”.

When Steve Jobs gave the 2005 commencement address at Stanford he told three stories: first, about dropping out of college and taking/auditing courses he loved that opened up his passion for calligraphy; second, his firing and rehiring and Apple and starting Pixar; then his battle with pancreatic cancer and how it confirmed the importance of family and not compromising on doing what you love.

Steve Jobs used that word … love … a lot in his speech. I like that because love and leadership go hand-in-hand. Do generals love their troops? The good ones do. Do coaches love their players? Good ones do.  Do executives love their employees? Love, really? James A. Autry, author of Love and Profit, writes: “Good management is largely a matter of love. Or if you’re uncomfortable with that word, call it caring, because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them.”

If you loved calligraphy would you like working for Steve Jobs even in a command-and-control-hard-deadline environment? If you love fun, would you like working for Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines? The common thread in both of these examples is that, when people know the beliefs, passions and values of the CEO they “get” that their work has significance beyond the job description and pay grade.

In his address Steve Jobs only mentioned any kind of fiscal success when he reviewed his garage startup with Steve Wozniak and how ten years later Apple was a $2 billion company.  Instead, in his talk he advocated the practice of connecting the dots of your past … considering the things that you love and enjoy, as he did an example of his love for calligraphy leading to the Macintosh. And he said along the way “you have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. After his firing at Apple he thought about running away from those things that he love but in the end he said “I was still in love” and so I decided to start over.

There’s that word again.

“Your work, he said, is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied you should do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” As with all matters of the heart you’ll know when you find.

At Heart Matters our belief is that culture acts as a compass and the leaders heart represents true North. Steve Jobs’ “true North” was his love and passion for great work. If you work in that kind of culture, you’re innate desire for meaning, belonging and contribution are intrinsically met. That’s inspiring!

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