Leadership: "Doing Good While Doing Well"

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2If you're anything like me, when you started off in life as a young adult, you wanted to change the world - or at least make the world a little better of a place to be. At the same time, you wanted to do fulfilling work, in an area of interest and skill, and make a decent living doing it. This constellation of three things:

  • Making the world (or community, country, etc.) better
  • Doing interesting, fulfilling work
  • Making a decent living doing it

This is what I and others call "Doing good while doing well."

The overlap of the three of these can be illustrated thus: 

DoingGoodDoingWellAs you can see, the intersection of all three of these together is where we can "Do Good while Doing Well." Many people who prioritize making the world better feel stuck either in boring, righteous survival - where they make a living doing what is going to make the world a better place, but they don't find the work interesting or fulfilling. Others, and this is probably the majority, feel stuck in the "Noble Poverty" of doing something fulfilling and interesting that makes the world a better place, but are constantly living on the edge. Those who priortize making the world a better place but can neither make a living doing it nor find the work they do fulfilling are mired in duty.

Those who prioritize making a living over all else find themselves slipping into greed; while those who still want to make the world better find themselves in survival and boredom. Those who priortize making a living while doing fulfilling, interesting work tend to end up self-oriented. 

Those who prioritize doing interesting, fulfilling work over anything else typically can't move past the dream phase, and may shift dramatically into some form of survival once outside support dries up. They also can fall in to self-orientation if they neglect making the world better or noble poverty if they can't find a way to make a living while making the world better. 

6 Steps to Finding the Work You Love. Read more from Walter Sawatzky

(My colleague, Walter, has written about vocation here.)

It is important for leadership in our enteprises that we are self-reflective and look for where we may fall in these overlapping circles. Of course, many of us did this kind of self-reflection years ago, and just need to check in every once in a while to see if we are on track.

We also know that those who work with us, those for whom we work, and those who work for us all struggle with this at some level or another. As steward leaders, we can help them to look at the work they do and help them find fulfillment, living, and greater purpose. And that helps us not only do good while doing well, it helps others to do the same. 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! One final note: much of the debate we have constantly in the news and politics about disparities between wealthy and poor, education reform (particularly the debate swirling about the role, cost and value of higher education), immigration, money in politics, effectiveness of nonprofits, the salaries of executives, and so on, all these find many of their roots in differing assumptions as to people's motivation and priorities and their ability to actually "do good while doing well." Some truly believe that the only place for people who want to better the world is to live in noble poverty; others, wanting to see the ultimate in personal fulfillment, leave people blown about in dreams but with little to show for it. Still others assume greed is the dominant motivation for most people. All of this swirls together, without being seen, under the surface of many of these debates. Were we to begin to discuss the underlying assumptions, we might find a greater amount of common ground upon which to make decisions that will affect us and those who come after us. 




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Topics: steward leadership, vocation vs career, career vs vocation