18: The Law of Sacrifice

(EN: The misuse of the concept of sacrifice is a common problem, and I don't think it quite fits what the author communicates in this chapter. A person who puts the needs of an employer before his personal desires isn't making a sacrifice - he's simply "working" - nor is it sacrificial to pay a significant price to achieve something of even greater value. Given that the concept itself is hazy, it may be difficult to make much sense of what follows.)

The chapter begins with an extended homage to Lee Iacocca, who turned around the failing Chrysler corporation in the 1980s. The author highlights some of the difficult choices Iacocca made to do so:

The author explains his point a bit more explicitly: many people who hunger for power assume that leadership is an easy job, in which they merely hand out orders and success happens automatically, setbacks are minor and few, and personal wealth and fame are practically guaranteed.

However, the true nature of leadership is hard work, difficult problems, and decisions that often require a great deal of hardship with the hope, not the guarantee, of success. Personal wealth is not guaranteed, and there are fewer people who worship leaders than wish to ridicule them for even minor mistakes.

As in any pursuit, great success is the reward of great effort. To achieve lofty goals, you must pay a significant price. And that is the essence of the Law of Sacrifice.

A Personal Accounting

The author recounts three occasions in which taking a job that moved him forward in his career required him to take a pay cut - and when he quit working for others in order to run his own business as a writer and professional speaker, he gave up the safety of a salary altogether.

His notion is that each job change took him from a position of achievement to one where he hadn't achieved anything. The salary he earned as a pastor of a church he had worked to make successful was compensation for his work in making it a success. The salary he was offered by another church was based on hope, tinged with uncertainty, that he would be able to help a struggling (and often financially weakened) church to succeed.

Some board members were a bit shocked at his willingness to take a deep pay cut to come to work for a different church. His perspective is that "if I did the job well, the salary would take care of itself."

The Price of Success

It is inherent to the role of a leader to give service to others: to make the success of their organization their top priority, and to support and empower their followers. Sometimes, it's win-win. But other times, serving others requires a leader to accept a choice that benefits others rather than himself, or even going so far as to accept a personal setback so that others may benefit or succeed.

"Talk to any leader," the author claims, "and you will find that he has made repeated sacrifices. Usually, the higher that leader has climbed, the greater the sacrifices he has made."

Take, for example, the most powerful leader in the present world: the President of the United States. It's fairly well-known that a person who accepts that position has less freedom than anyone else in the nation he leads. Because of the responsibilities of his position, his time is not his own, he is under constant pressure to succeed, he is under the constant scrutiny of the public and the media, his security staff control his every movement, etc. (EN: It's often been observed that the job "ages" Presidents - look at photos taken during their candidacy and photos taken at the end of their term of service, and you'll see a man who has aged two decades in the course of four years.)

Consider the hardship of civil rights leaders: Mandela, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King - the reward of their service has been a life of hardship, constantly harassed and threatened by those who opposed their ideas, arrested and jailed, the target and sometimes victim of assassins.

Compared to this, leaders in the corporate world have it pretty easy, but that's not to say their lives are not without difficulties aplenty. Achieving success comes at great personal sacrifice - and the success they seek to achieve is often for the benefit of others rather than themselves: their organization, their investors, their customers, and their employees.