I was reading a near-future dystopian thriller yesterday (Cumulus by Eliot Peper) and a quote literally jumped off the screen and lodged in my brain:
“Good leaders made themselves indispensable. Great leaders made themselves expendable.”
This saying feels like a part of the kind of understated and constructive leadership I’ve been trying to cultivate, and I was excited to share it with a colleague and fellow event producer.
“I love it generally and as intended…it touches on a fear for me, which I wonder if you have too…
If you’re expendable, would you get to go to the event?”
My reply was too quick, without much thought: “Of course you would. Why wouldn’t you?”
Then I thought about it some more.
FOI: Fear of Irrelevance
I realized that the particular fear – of not being allowed to attend an event unless you are working for it – is a particular malady related to our (my colleague and me) constant battle with workaholism. It’s a pernicious and sneaky belief that is the dark underside of the whole idea of “work ethic”:
I’m only valuable for what I can do, not for who I am.
It’s the “What have you done for me lately?” feeling, turned on yourself. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done or accomplished in the past, that voice, that fear, won’t let you rest. Won’t let you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Won’t let you in on the sneaky secret.
Even when you can set up everything so that it can run without you, the people who care about you still want you around.
And more than that:
When it doesn’t matter what you can do, you don’t disappear.
All Better Now!
So this is your semi-annual reminder:
You have worth. Not for what you do, or what you’ve done, or what you have.
>You have worth simply because you are a sentient being, and as such, deserve respect and support so that we can all enjoy the world that we build together.
There! Now that you have read that, it’s all better, right?
It’s not that easy. My colleague could have been echoing my own thoughts, and those of my partner, my kids, our friends, when she said:
I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe.
> I know it’s not you.
> I can trust you on it.
> I just don’t think I’m worth it.
And you know what? That’s ok to think that way, if that’s where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix. All of us workaholics – and there are a lot in the company I keep – just keep telling each other:
You are enough,
and do the best we can to believe it.