“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
During an interview years ago, the great Academy-Award winning actor, Rod Steiger, was asked if young people ever asked him for career advice. “Oh yeh, sure, all the time. I just look ‘em in the eye and ask ‘Do you want to be an actor or do you have to be an actor?’ The longer it takes for them to answer, the less likely they’ll ever make it.”
With rare exception, peak performance throughout human history has been made by those who had to achieve it…no matter how difficult it may have been, no matter how much time it took. An authentic sense of purpose has immense power. That’s what Nietzsche has in mind and so does Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
I agree with Zach Mercurio: “When we ask why of ourselves or our organizations, the answer is our purpose. Purpose is our reason for existence, the answer to the question,” Of what use are we to the world?…purpose has the power to unite, compel, engage, and transform our lives, our organizations, and the world.”
Opinions are divided about motivation. Some people are convinced they can motivate others. I reject that but am convinced that it is possible to inspire self-motivation in others and the best way to do that is to help them gain a sense of purpose, what Simon Sinek claims is the WHY. In fact, he says that every initiative must begin with WHY.
Mercurio wrote this book to explain HOW.
With regard to its title, I am again reminded of the fact that when César Ritz was asked what set his hotels apart from all others, he replied “Superior service that is invisible.” Anyone who has experienced a Ritz-Carlton hotel knows exactly what he means. Invisible leadership can be found at all levels and all areas of operations in a Ritz-Carlton Hotel but its impact is visible and substantial.
The same could be true of any other organization…but seldom is. Consider the fact that most of the companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry segment.
Mercurio points out that there is a direct correlation between employees having a sense of authentic purpose and being actively and positively engaged. Recent research studies indicate that, on average, more than 70% of employees in a U.S. company aren’t. It is also worth noting that during exit interviews of valued workers who been hired away, the most frequently expressed complaint is that they do not feel appreciated.
There are no head-snapping revelations in this book nor does Zach Mercurio make any such claim. The material is sound and sufficient, the presentation is crisp, and the potential value to a careful reader who is also a careful thinker is probably incalculable.
All employees want to be actively and positively engaged in work if they believe it has value. How many have to be? Efforts may be invisible but the results – for better or worse – will be visible for all to see.