“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer was a medical missionary during the mid-20th Century who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. While not without critics and controversy, he was a man who believed in giving back to humanity out of gratitude.
I started thinking about the role that this concept plays in the life of a leader. What is it like when the leader feels his/her fire is going out? Who are the people who rekindle it? Whose fire are you re-kindling? And what role does gratitude play in your life as a leader?
It may be tempting to project an image that we are somehow above losing our passion, but that’s a dangerous game to play, and that’s exactly what it is — a game. Leaders, be authentic and transparent. And be comfortable with appropriate levels of self-disclosure with others. To not do so can be disillusioning for them because they may wonder how they can ever be the leader you are since they are very aware of their own need to refuel from time to time. It can also rob someone of the opportunity to be that person who re-ignites your flame.
Schweitzer’s words remind me of several things that I need to do on a regular basis as a leader:
- I need to surround myself with encouraging people whose passion feeds mine (and vice versa). That’s not the same as insulating yourself from negative people. I’m not sure that insulation is wise or possible. Keeping your fire going does not depend so much on the absence of the negative as it does the presence of the positive.
- I need to be the kind of person who actively seeks the opportunity to re-ignite the fire in other people. In their book Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Posner stress and re-stress the point: Do all you can to enlarge the lives of others—and your life will be enlarged in the process.
- I need to be grateful for those times and those people who have rekindled my spirit. Maybe they knew it at the time, and maybe they didn’t. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to express my gratitude to them and to live every day with gratitude. If you don’t think gratitude will make a difference in your effectiveness as a leader, just ask yourself: Do I want to follow a leader who is characterized by gratitude or ingratitude?
Sounds pretty simple, right? It is! So let’s get started today!