Let me tell you a truth that will surprise you but will also help us identify an enemy of strong leadership.
Most men who have extra-marital affairs do so out of boredom. I know this sounds strange. You would think they would be driven only by lust. The truth is that when we do the post-mortem on leadership crashes caused by affairs, most of the men involved were trying to break out of suffocating boredom.
It was the intrigue of the affair that appealed to them most. The woman was attractive to them but they were mainly drawn by the secret rendezvous, the code names, the elaborate web of lies required to conceal. They grew addicted to the game. They liked the challenge. They felt a bit like James Bond.
This excitement appealed to them because they were bored. Most of these men had arrived at a place in life where their work did not engage them. Things at home were stale. They had a “wondering eye,” not so much for the female form or an encouraging look from a striking woman, but rather for the opportunity to live some wildness, some thrill, or some mystery.
Now, I don’t want to talk about affairs. I want to talk about leadership. Little derails effective leadership like boredom. Since leaders are usually big souls who strive to live life on a grand scale, they are easily bored by the mundane. The moment they cease to be challenged by the lives they lead is the moment they become susceptible to anything that invades their boredom.
It’s when they are bored that they think up stupid accounting schemes to siphon off corporate funds. When they are bored they write suggestive messages to the big-chested girl in the PR department or the hunk in human resources. This is when they decide that everything interesting in the world is happening somewhere other than in their home or on their job. This is when the go in search of adventure, whether they realize they are doing it or not.
What’s the solution? First, every leader has to realize the simple truth I’ve expressed this far in this Leading Thoughts: boredom is dangerous to leaders.
Second, leaders have to accept that everything in life isn’t going to be thrilling. To compensate, they have to build thrill and adventure into their days. In other words, take responsibility for your “thrill factor.” Your marriage, your children, and your job weren’t designed to provide the adventure you need. In fact, they weren’t designed exclusively for your needs at all. So take responsibility. Build into your life what you need. Love your family but get your adventure in the wild or on a team or on a motorcycle or in the boat or at the triathlon. Take the matter in hand.
Finally, pay attention. Don’t let boredom become an unrecognized force in your life. I get bored. In fact, I get bored easily. I have to watch it all the time. Like you, not everything I do is thrilling. Yet I live an examined life. I know when I’m in a boring time or on a boring project or bored with the way things have been. When I’m bored, I stand guard. I keep myself clean. I talk about it with by band of brothers. I build some excitement into my life. I make the changes I need to make. Living the examined life keeps enemies of your soul from catching you by surprise. This is one of the great arts of leadership.
That’s it. Have a good weekend. And don’t lose hope for Notre Dame!