Did you know that the mother octopus lays up to half a million eggs, takes care of them and then dies? OK. It has taken care of the reproduction of its breed, but does it really have to die from it. Apparently yes.
This made me think about non-profit leaders and the so called paternalism. You know when you treat your organization or your project as a child. You don’t let anything hurt it or do anything so it would grow into a responsible adult, taking care of you in the future.
Many theoreticians claim this is a major drawback in the development of an organization as you as a “parent” don’t let anyone near it. I agree to some point. But, isn’t the organization in best hands if somebody cares so much?
If organization doesn’t have a parent, then there is a board who decides what will happen to it. It is like we gave our child in the hands of several people sitting and discussing what would be good for him. Please note, discussing is not doing. If someone is eager to help, the others probably aren’t. Let’s pray to get a board full of those who care and not only discuss, but act. It happens rarely, but it happens.
Imagine an octopus giving its 500 thousand eggs to a board of other 5-7 grown-up octopuses. The job would be much easier to do and probably wouldn’t have to pay this extra attentive care that would force her to die out of exhaustion.
But the nature tells us another story. There is always the one who takes charge, the one who leads the others, the one who in all circumstances doesn’t dare not to give a damn. In this case it is an octopus. In our case it is the leader of the organization who continues and walks on despite/aware of the fact he might burn out. The leader knows his tasks, the leader knows where to go next and his destination. He will reach it no questions asked and all obstacles overcome.
The octopus follows its instinct, the leader follows his mission. The mission is what he is here for.
Nowadays we see so many people burn out. Those who are prone to this really unpleasant state of body and mind usually work with people, providing some service to them. Mostly for people in need. We work in stressful situations and cannot deny emotions arising with it.
What I have learned from this experience three years ago is that if the whole team doesn’t follow the same path, you get burned out. You must understand the interests of people working for your organization are different – some are there only for the money (no mission), some just want fame (no mission), some are there because of lack of knowledge and because they have no where else to go and they rather hide their incompetence by following your instructions (no mission). I burned out as with too much work I didn’t take the time to realize what was going on. Once the organization is a success many manipulative people try to join it and suck the best out of it. Their best is money, my best was its worthy mission. I was naive that non-profits are immune to such people.
My colleague once said that only 1 % of people are philanthropic, meaning that they really want to help others. All the others help to get some personal gain. He was right. I had to learn this the hard way.
It is sad. It is a disappointment. But we have to accept it. Money really makes the world go round for the majority of people.
The octopus probably knows that half of its offspring will be eaten in the first days of their life, but takes care of them anyway. It is worth to it, as some will survive and that is exactly what it dies for. The non-profit leader knows that most of the people lead by him are probably not going to follow his mission as he has nothing to offer in return. Some will seemingly act like they support him just to gain reputation, favours, PR and, of course, money. But some do find his work worthy.
And the leader knows these are the ones worth his persisting.
Should he continue? Of course.
Will he burn out? Only if he lets near the people that are there for their personal gain. And these have a remarkable power to complicate our life.
Beware of who you get into the team. If the mission is great and you believe in it, nobody and nothing should or could stand in your way.
Don’t stop looking for people who understand. In the long run they will be your greatest asset and the best preventive vaccination for possible future burnouts.