In a previous article, I shared with you my interviews with leaders who, at some point in their careers, lost their drive. I summarized the reasons behind their diminishing drive in seven points ranked by frequency of response.
In this post, I share with you the results of my follow-up question: “What did you do to regain your drive once you lost it?” As a reminder, these interviews were done over a one-year period as I met with leaders in informal conversation. My methodology is thus anecdotal rather than scientific. Still, I found their responses to be both helpful and encouraging.
These responses are again in order of frequency. Most leaders either gave one or two ways they regained their drive. Very few gave three or more.
- They started viewing their work with a greater purpose. These leaders looked at the good their organizations accomplished. They began intentionally focusing on that greater purpose. Their work thus became a mission, and the paycheck became a tertiary motive to get the job done.
- They confronted others in the organization who seemed not to value their work. Most of the time the confrontation was with a superior in the organization, but not all the time. They had honest conversation with their bosses and peers. Sometimes they discovered that others’ perspective of their inferiority was just wrong. Most of the time they were right, so they sought constructive criticism to improve their contribution to the organization. We further learned from some of these leaders that they felt liberated confronting their challenges head on. Many of them admitted they had been in denial with themselves and others about their shortcomings.
- They sought a new position in the organization. Some realized that their loss of drive was because they were a bad fit in their position in the organization. They thus took a position that better matched their abilities and competencies. A few even took a pay cut and demotion in order to have a better-fitting and more rewarding position.
- They left the organization. Several of the leaders told us that they were simply not a match for the organization. They thus began an exit plan to find a job that was a better fit. When they did, their drive and enthusiasm returned.
- They stopped focusing on the critics. Some of these leaders were drained due to persistent criticisms inside or outside the organization. The criticism drained them emotionally and physically. They thus lost their drive. They began to regain their drive when the critics were no longer their focus, especially if the critics were not helpful in the leader doing a better job.
- They sought help for their physical needs. I was surprised at the number of leaders who discovered some physical reason for their loss of drive. Some of the problems were as simple as being out of shape. Others sought medical help and discovered significant medical problems. Once those problems were addressed, their drive returned.
- They confronted their own entitlement mentality and negativity. Some of the leaders told us that they were their own worst enemies. They had simply developed a bad attitude. They viewed their job from an entitlement perspective. They were negative about most anything. One leader labeled his change “an attitude adjustment revival.” He said the toughest step was the first one: admitting that he was really the problem. Once he did, he discovered a renewed drive and joy for his work.
Almost all leaders go through lulls and tough periods in their lifetimes, whether they are in midlife, early life or older. These men and women I interviewed taught me that good leaders look in the mirror regularly, and they get honest feedback from people they trust. Those two perspectives will likely show us why we are losing our drive and, more importantly, how we can regain it.