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In tough times, is your definition of success too narrow?

You’ve seen it too many times. Successful, top-tier leaders went wrong.

Madoff. Blagojevich. Place. Just to name a few.

On top of these disappointments, overlay the uncertainty of our economic outlook… and try to make sense of this mess.

But the pieces don’t fit. A piece of the puzzle is missing.

I recently spoke with a group of 120 professional women. I had addressed this group before on the topic of leadership, so this time I spoke to them on “Finding Your Passion.”

After all, given that February is International Leadership Month and the month of love, I wasn’t surprised that my “Finding Your Passion” speech was just another way of addressing the importance of leadership.

Yes… passion and leadership are matters of the heart.

As I traveled home from my speech, I reflected on how my passion-driven work messages were so relevant and necessary in our current economic times and for these fallen “leaders.”

You see when times get tough; it seems that passion, heart and leadership are the first to be compromised. And yet, when times are tough, you should prop them up instead.

When you find your passion and live it; you are living a life that is fully integrated. A life that doesn’t have a work side and a life side, or one with secrets you can’t share with either side. No, it only has one large piece. A whole life.

Only when you are fully integrated can you lead this life and other lives effectively. But this ONE integrated life requires a new definition of success. A much broader definition of success where passion, purpose and heart cannot be compromised.

How do you think these leaders who messed up defined their success? Probably in a very narrow way. I dare to guess what it was: Money.

Money isn’t the bad guy here, but a lack of passion, purpose, and heart coupled with a singular focus on money at all costs, including your own integrity, is what went wrong here.

Harvard Business School professor Michael Beer was recently interviewed about his upcoming new book. In his new job, he studied successful CEOs to answer several questions about how to achieve sustainable long-term business performance, particularly when faced with our current economic climate.

His studies found that the most effective leaders were those who defined success in a much broader sense. They covered metrics such as customer and employee value, as well as impact on the community and society in their overall vision of success. They defined it as much more than just earnings and share price, but at the same time these CEOs still had a strong focus and discipline around these latter metrics.

As you might suspect, when faced with tough times, these CEOs made very different decisions than those whose metrics were based solely on earnings and share price. They were less likely to jump right into layoffs, recognizing that people were a key asset. Not that they never used layoffs to affect change, but they found creative ways to cut labor costs through shorter workweeks, lower wages, and fewer benefits.

The CEOs in Beer’s study represent the type of leaders who take a more holistic view of business success that embodies passion, heart, and purpose. They did not compromise on these things even when times were tough.

Just as exceptional leaders take a broad view during challenging times, you need to raise your own standard and define success more broadly during these same times. Define your success more broadly to encompass your passion, purpose, and heart.

So, as you go about your day trying to get through these tough times, are you living just for the paycheck? Have you parked your passion elsewhere? Is your definition of success too narrow? Expand your definition. Start pursuing your passion, purpose, and heart, even if they seem frivolous or non-revenue generating.

By defining your success more broadly, you will begin to experience ever-increasing levels of success. The type of success that is able to weather difficult times.

And that’s one of the missing puzzle pieces! You do not agree?


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