How to avoid losing your identity and broaden your horizons

Beware that your job doesn’t become your sole focus and only passion. Most leaders are initially identified by their positions, particularly when they become a business’s public face and voice. Investors/shareholders may secretly relish that their top people spend every ounce of their energy and waking hours on getting the job done. If a career were a sprint to accomplish a specific major objective, that would work but only for a time.

Successful companies, however, have learned that well-rounded executives outperform a sprinter-type who is focused exclusively on the finish line. The latter typically eventually runs out of energy and loses sight of the big picture and long-term goals. Single-purpose executives also are poor coaches and developers of subordinates because they won’t invest in anything other than their main short-term goals.

Most of us, at one point in business, go hell-bent for success. In short spurts, this can be a significant asset for a leader. The bigger problem is that unless you are a Marvel comics superhero, you cannot go all-out 24/7, every day of the year. It’s almost guaranteed that those who are supercharged and locked into this hyper-myopic burnout mode will become one-dimensional leaders. Eventually, they have trouble recognizing the forest from the trees and get lost in the weeds along the way.

This can end badly, even tragically. We’ve all seen TV shows or experienced first-hand someone who almost pathologically loses perspective, neglects his or her family and friends, and closes out everything else. Obsessions in any pursuit — business, sports, or the arts — usually end badly when, as has been repeated many times, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

To avoid the lines blurring and defining you by your position requires cultivating interests that are not exclusively job-related. I’ve mentored many young up-and-comers not associated with my companies as one of the ways I diversify my interests and deviate from my day job. Not only does this give me a needed respite from the day-to-day, but it’s also satisfying to stand on the sidelines, knowing that I might make a difference in someone’s life. It also empowers me to further broaden my interests away from the bottom line.

To start exploring new avenues for a hard-charging executive, I recommend making a list of those things outside of business that one finds of interest. It doesn’t matter what activity is provided, it’s a clear departure from what one normally does, and it’s even better when it doesn’t involve those with whom one works. This is why top business leaders join various boards of directors, such as hospitals, schools, and charities, and volunteer as guest speakers or sports team coaches, where they can add value while exploring new horizons.

You’ll know you’ve achieved this diversification when someone stops you and says, “I know you from…” and immediately you think it’s because of what you do in business. However, they finish by stating they recognize you because of your association with an extra-circular activity or personal passion.

Inevitably your day job will evolve and eventually evaporate. When that day comes, make sure that what you did for a living was not exclusively who you were. ●

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”

Michael Feuer

Founder and CEO