Work is a gift! Work is not only a means to a financial end, but an opportunity for you to express your unique giftedness in special ways. In fact, Thomas Aquinas, the medieval monk and scholar once said: “Without work, it is impossible to have fun”. Without attempting to romanticise the work concept, work almost has a spiritual ring to it – all the great religions and faiths advocate work as part of the human growth process. Work thus provides the environment where employees can contribute their God-given talents and express their creativity – the same is liberating for the worker and an enhancement to the business.
This perspective is not necessarily adopted by most employees, who see their roles as arduous and their responsibilities as burdens that have to be carried. The media once asked Pope John XXlll how many people worked at the Vatican. “About half of them”, he replied. It would seem that even religious institutions and not only businesses suffer with bureaucracy, limiting hierarchies and power games – all concepts that disempower employees and cause them to lose hope. It is rather interesting how the challenges confronting leaders (religious and secular alike) have some universal tenets. The journalist, Eric Sevareid, commented: “I am a pessimist about tomorrow, but an optimist about the day after tomorrow”. The same is felt by many as they view business today.
Is creating a business that can provide real meaning (even spiritual dimensions) for its employees an impossible dream? Can accountants and engineers become proficient business leaders as well as effective spiritual guides? Engaging the heart, soul and mind of employees is no easy task, especially where mistrust exists. Commitment from employees is necessary for business success, but while religious leaders seem to understand what is required to enable commitment, many business leaders do not. Education seems to be more focused on measuring, managing and marketing and the sacred component of soliciting contribution is not seen as the leader’s job.
There are many employees in the world, however, who yearn to throw their commitment behind a leader who builds community, grows trust and offers hope. Employees seem to be instinctively drawn to managers who are trying to embrace this approach. Many managers don’t, however, believing that as business is a mirror of life, corporate unlawfulness will not end in the near future. They reckon that it is near impossible to develop a business that cares – selfishness will just not go away. They give up on the quest for integrity and trustworthiness and abandon hope of ever building an environment where every employee can be holistically fulfilled. They join the “dog-eat-dog” nature of commercial competition and shrug their shoulders at its toxicity.
If something seems impossible and literally “out of reach”, it does not mean that you shouldn’t work on it, giving up hope on actualising it. Some of that which we are required to work on will not be accomplished in our lifetimes. That’s what vision, brilliance and legacy are about. A revered sage in a monastery once said: “If you think you’re too small to be effective, then you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito”. We all can have an impact, however small it may be. As leaders, we need to specialise in the impossible.