There is a certain squishiness about being human that makes me uncomfortable. I find it hard to wrap my head around the paradox of fragility that we bestow. We can be taken down by an invisible virus, but survive days without food and water trapped under the building that just fell down on top of us. That doesn’t make any sense. There is a certain wandering that we are prone to do. A wandering of the intangible parts of us. A wandering of the soul, if you’re okay with the notion that we indeed have those. We seem to all begin with an understanding of our existence as something other and bigger than ourselves. It is typically our experiences throughout life that convince us otherwise. We spend much of our time trying to form a construct for why on earth we’re here in the first place, and the rest of our lives trying to reassure ourselves that we are right. It’s one thing for this all to be true, it’s another thing to realize that there are eight billion people all doing this at the same time. And it’s rare to run into someone who isn’t also searching for the missing piece to their existential puzzle. Indeed, in this life, contentment is a treasure. Any glimpse of it can be life-changing.

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We seem to be the only ones on the planet that are consciously aware that something is missing. Contentment is not automatic for us as it seems to be for everyone else. What gives? The things we’ll do to find the missing piece is exactly why we tell our kids about “the real world” and how hard it is. Because 98% of the people you will meet are trying to find their missing piece, and have no problem taking it from you, and mom and dad aren’t forever around to prevent that from happening.

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As leaders, there is no more important step towards what Jim Collins refers to as “Level 5 Leadership” than finding your contentment – being secure in who you are. As I’ve said before, leadership and insecurity do not mix. The role of a leader is to constantly be aware of what others need at any given moment and to offer them wholeness in return. It doesn’t get any squishier than that. When leaders are not secure in themselves, they tend to see the people they are leading as a source for finding that missing piece. Through that, they often rob any hope of security from their people – they take any chance of wholeness.

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In an organic structure, leadership exists to affirm functionality, identity and value. It exists to serve others. Its purpose is to enable function and provide security. A leader’s security then has to come from somewhere else. And that is why leadership is the hardest function of them all.