Creative Leadership

In Your Career, Do You Want Safety or Freedom?

One of the biggest complaints I get from employees at non-profit organizations is that they’re not allowed to make decisions. They complain the organization doesn’t support their dream. At that point I like to remind them of the tacit exchange they made when they signed on for the job. When you expect your boss to take care of your health benefits, salary, retirement, security, and employment, you give something away in the process.

I believe that as long as we pursue safety, we relinquish living a life that matters.

Stop for a minute and think about how much you’ve turned over in exchange for safety. Do you really feel comfortable voicing dissent in meetings? Do you really believe your ideas will be valued and acted upon? Do you really believe that you’re not simply viewed as another commodity – a working part – that could be exchanged easily without interrupting the process?

I’m not against organizations, in fact I own two. But I am against people sacrificing their values for employment. And it’s not about your company or it’s leader. It’s about you. What would it take for you to be valued? What would it take for you to reach the peak of your ability and calling?

The answer isn’t easy, because life isn’t about finding answers, it’s about asking the right questions. So don’t expect this blog post – or any other – to fix your life. But I would like you to starting thinking about your life, and if it’s the life you really want.

Someone once said that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. So maybe it’s time you stopped digging. Stop doing what you’ve always done, and start thinking in a different way.

Start questioning. Ultimately, it’s not about your job, it’s about you. What are your values? Are those values finding expression in your current job?

Sure you need money, but you also need to live a life that matters.

What’s your choice?

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  1. Dear Dr Phil, I'm interested to know what (or who) inspired you to write this? I have avoided that "tacit exchange" at a number of critical moments in my career but have yet to strike gold in the alternate path. Mediocrity and brilliance is separated by an almost supernatural chasm that destroys most who attempt to cross it.

    God help me to fly.

  2. Good wisdom and pretty timely I'm sure for high energy professionals like you.

    Thank God we're not all wired that way and there are followers and supporters or else there'd be no work force for those wired like you.    😉

  3. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against organizations, but I am against organizations that don’t allow people to exercise their gifts. The question isn’t “are organizations bad” but “what kind of organization are you in?” You control your destiny. If you’re miserable, it’s not the organization’s fault, it’s yours.

  4. Some of are called to be servants, to make others successful.  When those of us who have that calling let our ego get in the way and try to be the person up front and chase after recognition, we make ourselves miserable.

    That does not mean that the servants do not have ideas.  We do.  But as a servant our job is to influence.  Some times we have to live with the bad calls of those who make the decisions.  But we still need to work to make those over us to be successful.

    If the place you are serving is abusive, then you need to find some place else to serve.  Just make sure that it is not your own attitude that is causing the problems.

    Either way, the risk taker or background person, our efforts only have meaning in the kingdom God when we are lead by his spirit.

  5. Hi Phil,

    My Dad owned a business for a while and he told me once, (probably an oft-quoted phrase among business leaders) "When I hired someone for the Board of Directors, or another co-worker, I made sure that I hired someone who knew more about that job than I did." An organization's management team will do well by allowing their employees to flourish, and offer better ideas than they could've come-up with on their own.  Probably, too much ego gets in the way for that to happen (for a leader to be able to say, "You are better than I am when it comes to this or that, That's why we brought you on".)Or, with a ministry, they don't understand how the Holy Spirit can use good "brain-storming" to help figure-out God's desire (which is usually only seen in heinsight, anyways).

  6. Do you want THE ILLUSION of safety, or freedom?

    "Cause that's the deal.  Christian organizations fold, reorganize, dump their dead weight, etc as about the same rate as everyone else does.

    Financial independence isn't the only path to freedom.  Some people are harder to manipulate than others.  They have knowledge, and they know how to use it.  Education can be helpful in becoming hard to exploit.  Paying attention is helpful too. 

    Assume nothing.  One of my favorite fictional characters said it best.  "Let me pass on to you the one thing I've learned about this place: No one here is exactly what he appears."   An amazing amount of useful information about people and situations is readily available.  Unfortunately, through bias, ignorance and laziness, we filter out a great deal.  I'm as guilty as the next slob where that's concerned, and I've paid dearly for it more than once.  By paying attention, we can gain at least as much useful information as we gain through formal education.

    Freedom follows knowledge and understanding in a natural progression.

  7. Phil,

    One of the many things that I have always appreciated about you and Kathleen both is that you encouraged growth even allowing room for error. That is the highest level of leadership, which not many are able to achieve. Must be all of the John Maxwell books you have read throughout the years.

    I guess that's why you are CALLED to consult church/ministry leaders!:) Somebody has to do it.

    However, even in a healthy environment, there comes a time when the eaglets have to fly!       

  8. Pride is an interesting characteristic.  It can drive people to greatness, then cause them to betray their cause.  Tonight we watched a historical tv program outlining the military career of Benedict Arnold.  Pride made him an excellent field commander,, and pride caused him to betray the Revolution. 

    It's hard to tell when someone's driven by pride.  Most people who are worth their salt suffer from pride to a certain extent  It's probably harder to figure out if it's simply pride that causes us to say, "I'm not putting up with this any more!"    Usually, if we're really being abused, other ethical violations exist.  If the answer to the question, "If I stay am I supporting unethical activity?" is yes, then it's time to go.  Real abuse is an ethics problem, and ethics problems tend to occur in clusters. 

    Good luck reading this.  I've lost my reading glasses again.  I apoligize for any "creative" spellings you may have encounted.  They're around here someplace, and I'll probably be forced to bribe a child to find 'em for me.  Now that's a pride buster!

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