People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.

–-- William Stafford, "The Way It Is"

What Are You Called To?

Per­haps there is only one impor­tant lead­er­ship ques­tion: “What are you called to?” Fin­ish that ques­tion any­way you like — what are you called to do, what are you called to be? Either way the word, “called,” implies a cer­tain kind of intu­itive depth, a cer­tain way of being.

So much of the atten­tion seems to go to find­ing this “call­ing,” to dis­cov­er pas­sions from which we might still be dis­con­nect­ed. But I say you are already fol­low­ing your pas­sions. You are already being you. The answer is already there. The tougher aspect is whether you are liv­ing this call­ing as ful­ly as you might, some­thing that relies on how much you are aware of it oper­at­ing in your life and how well you are turn­ing your fate into your destiny.


Snow­storm, Click to enlarge

And by the way, this isn’t just a ques­tion for indi­vid­u­als. It’s also a ques­tion for teams, for whole orga­ni­za­tions, for soci­ety at large. What are we called to? is just as essen­tial an inquiry. Are we called, for exam­ple, to com­pete or to col­lab­o­rate? To include or exclude? To serve and sup­port each oth­er or to self-inter­est? Are we called to express larg­er val­ues, such as jus­tice or empa­thy, or real­ly not so much?

Too often we try to fig­ure out how to describe the call in order to get buy-in from oth­ers, to make it some­one else’s call as well, per­haps. Of course, this is impos­si­ble because fol­low­ing a call­ing is a choice, not an impo­si­tion. It is not more valid because we’ve decid­ed to hold oth­ers account­able to it. For an orga­ni­za­tion, for exam­ple, all the work to clar­i­fy mis­sion, vision, val­ues, strate­gies is like that. For some the implied, under­ly­ing call that can nev­er be ful­ly explained in words tru­ly catch­es fire. For oth­ers, the exer­cis­es mere­ly lead to lit­er­al­ism or cyn­i­cal com­pli­ance. The true call, the full call is beyond the means used to estab­lish an orga­ni­za­tion­al pur­pose state­ment. The true call is sim­ply felt, sim­ply known as true. Every­thing else is only what are you assigned to, not what are you called to, not who you are, not your team or your company.

And here’s the thing. A call­ing isn’t just an easy or pain­less path, not if it is real. It will inevitably bring up the places the call­ing has­n’t yet become oper­a­tive, the places where the suf­fer­ing is. If your call­ing is to bring beau­ty into the world, you will often build your work from what began as ugly. If your call­ing is to bring peo­ple togeth­er, you may con­stant­ly find your own and oth­ers’ estrange­ment. If your call is social jus­tice, you’ll have to work with oth­ers and the parts of your­self that don’t believe in it. This is because a call­ing is a series of fun­da­men­tal­ly redemp­tive, trans­for­ma­tive acts, ones aimed to release dia­monds from coal, but not with­out pres­sure, not with­out the dark­ness of the stone itself, which is always near you and even inside you. 

Call­ing takes peo­ple to the very edge of their being and then hur­tles them over that edge to see what kind of wings they learn to spread. This is where the por­tion of divin­i­ty that belongs to the human begins. Any­thing less is a form of exis­ten­tial hes­i­ta­tion, a par­tial life gov­erned more by safe­ty than by that most hoped for pre­cious gift called mean­ing.


Dun­ge­ness Riv­er, Click pho­to to enlarge

RSS and email sub­scrip­tion, occa­sion­al Unfold­ing Lead­er­ship newslet­ter, search and oth­er func­tions may be found at the “Fur­ther Infor­ma­tion” tab at the bot­tom of the front page.

Pin­ter­est users, you can pin pic­tures from this weblog via this Board.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.