He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” - James Allen
Sacrifice is the price of entry for leadership. Fundamentally because the more responsibility you have, the fewer rights you have. It’s paradoxical, you can rise to the dizzy heights of power, even ultimate power, within your team or organisation, but what they most mean is you have ultimate responsibility for the mission, culture, and your people. Three things inspire sacrifice: motivation, perspective, opportunity. Why do you do what you do? How do you see what you do and when will you do what you do. These frame up the pillar of sacrifice.
I love watching documentaries, especially on the military and war because I believe our own lives are somewhat battle. These have allowed me to look at things from what I call a civilian standpoint. One of my more recent finds is the Netflix Documentary titled ‘The Medal of Honour’ where they tell and reenact the life of Medal of Honour recipients.
In episode three, they tell the story of Edward Carter, an African American soldier who gave up his rank to fight on the frontline because, in the 1940s as a black American, he was not able to have a rank higher than a white soldier. After his tank was taken out by German soldiers he and a small group of men (All African American) moved slowly across a grassy field towards the enemy.
Two of his men were killed and one seriously wounded. Carter engaged the Germans, killing six and taking two into custody while being seriously injured in the process and at the same time interrogated them for intelligence that led to the success of his platoons next manoeuvre. With no rank, with no standing and with no legitimacy Edward Carter served and sacrificed.
Edward Carter earned his Medal of Honour on March 23rd 1945 and was awarded his Medal of Honour on January 13th 1997. Sacrifice like that with a fifty-two year lag for recognition requires deep humility and conviction. For Edward Carter, the motivation, perspective and opportunity we’re clear. He knew at that moment he was born for that one battle.
In order to harness our purpose, one must begin with putting ego aside in favour of the collective good. Like what Robert Greenleaf says in his seminal work on Servant Leadership.
“Ego focuses on one’s own survival, pleasure, and enhancement to the exclusion of others; ego is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat, like little children who classify all people as “nice” or “mean.” Conscience, on the other hand, both democratises and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others’ security and fulfilment.”Ego will not get you there, sacrifice will. Click To Tweet
We all remember people who genuinely had our development and best interests at heart don’t we? Even if there are challenges along the way, knowing they are for us and not for themselves changed the game when it came to signing on to a vision, playing for a team and living up to our potential. Perhaps even more so we remember the leaders who paid a high price to lead, and for some of the military stories I spoke of earlier, some paid the ultimate price.
Sacrifice for the sake of living our purpose isn’t just one thing. It’s the combination of things that can lead us to a place of laying down our lives for the benefit of others. It’s the combination of why who and when. It’s the intersection of those things real time and in real life. It is an elegant combination of a cause, the people and moments. It isn’t one thing more than the other, it’s the combination and the relationships between them.
• The cause is the ‘why’ we are in this together, it’s the glue that binds us.
• The people are the ‘who’ we are with, solving problems, adding value, making meaning.
• The moment is the ‘when’ of true servant leadership. It’s the point of no return FOR others.
These combine to create the three legitimately powerful currencies in the pursuit of purpose.
•Motivation – comes from the cause and the people. It makes it human.
•Perspective – is the combination of the cause and the moment. It makes it real.
•Opportunity – is the connection between the moment and the person. It makes it now!
When you interview “heroes” they rarely tell of how they planned to be that way at that moment. In many cases, it was more than based on their role, responsibility, training and sense of duty at that point in time. They did what their instincts told them to do, they sacrificed, served, led and were courageous beyond all reasonable expectation. There is almost always a time a and place, a moment when your purpose meets a situation that requires something from you that may cost you everything. And sometimes it does.
As Robert K Greenleaf said, “The servant-leader is a servant first, it begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first, as opposed to, wanting power, influence, fame, or wealth.”
Your purpose is only concerned with making the lives around you better, and it will require you thinking of others first before yourself. Imagine your most favourite actor, and how they continually challenge themselves to play the roles they do all for your enjoyment.
Looking at this I have learned that fame and fortune will only come when you sacrifice all for your purpose. When you pour yourself out for the benefit of others.
I will leave you with this last thought, motivation, perspective and opportunity are important in fulfilling our purpose. Keep a keen eye out for these so that you do not miss your chance to be great.