Galadriel appears to Frodo in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings and tells him some unsettling news.  He is feeling overwhelmed and not worthy of the immense responsibility he is carrying.  Does that feel familiar?  She tells him something we all know, but often wish weren’t true:

“This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.”

So, like it or not, as leaders of families or organizations, we carry both the privilege and burden of responsibility in leadership.  You may have reluctantly found yourself in this position, but it is the position you hold.  

Yvon Chouinard, founder and sole owner of the private Patagonia company wrote a book about his journey with that company, “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman”.  He named his company after the beautiful and untamed Patagonia he experienced on an epic journey in the 70’s.  His company was actually created to provide him and his friends the requisite gear to experience what he found in Patagonia (in the picture above) and other beautiful places. 

It is one of the more obscure business books I have read.  His disdain for business and becoming a businessman makes him an unlikely leader of a billion dollar clothing and gear line.  He says in the book:

“After we had pondered our responsibilities and financial liabilities, one day it dawned on me that I was a businessman and would probably be one for a long time. It was also clear that in order to survive at this game, we had to get serious. I also knew that I would never be happy playing by the normal rules of business; I wanted to distance myself as far as possible from those pasty-faced corpses in suits I saw in airline magazine ads. If I had to be a businessman, I was going to do it on my own terms.” 

Okay, maybe a little more than disdain.  Hatred actually probably fits his feelings better, but like it or not, he had become what he disliked most.  There are several key things to note in what he said:

  • He weighted the responsibilities and liabilities
  • He realized that survival required getting serious
  • If he was going to be a businessman, he would do it his own way

He seems to sum up why our coaches are so motivated to help leaders be more intentional in their leadership.  Why one of the hills we’ll die on is helping them get clear on the most important priorities and build accountability structures to help accomplish them.  Leadership requires weighing the responsibility and getting serious about business in order to survive.

He also points to why we think a Lifeplan is so essential for a leader.  Their business should serve the life they were intended to live.  The life they were placed here for that makes them feel most alive, most glorifies God, and best serves humanity.

This is the place where Chouinard and I diverge.  He says, “If I had to be a businessman, I was going to do it on my own terms.”  I say that we were all born to be leaders (of our families, enterprise, and community) and that we need to do it on His terms and not ours.  

That is the place where His divinity and humanity’s great need most powerfully meet.

  • Are you aware of your reluctance to lead?
  • What is it costing you and those under your responsibility?
  • Is it time for you to get serious (whether you like it or not)?
  • Who is in your life that can actually challenge you about this sort of thing? (Most senior leaders don’t have anyone in their orbit who they have permission to do that.)