Leaders Need a Sustaining Meaning

By | October 29, 2019

[October 29, 2019]  All humans need to search for the meaning of life.  Like all others, leaders, too, need something to sustain them; to provide them with proper motivations and make them feel whole.  And this sustaining meaning comes only from the adoption of responsibilities.

I’ve discussed the importance of the search and acceptance of responsibilities several times in the past (for a few articles, see links here, here, and here).  I believe that only through accepting difficult responsibilities can we truly know ourselves, know satisfaction, and experience life to its fullest.

Leaders are social creatures, too.  Just recently, I stumbled upon Volume II of the Memoirs of Gen. W.T. Sherman (of U.S. Civil War fame).  What struck me when I read the chapter of lessons from the war was how the network of leaders in Sherman’s social circle helped him.  They helped Sherman better understand the war and keep going through the horrors that defined the “modern” battlefield.

Life is full of tragedy.  Leaders have the responsibility, for example, to be the bulwark on which they help defend against disaster and the terror of evil that seems never to abate.  Leaders are there to rally to people to a common cause.  That “cause” is part and parcel to what makes leaders who they are.  Tragedy can be what defines the pinnacle of ability and therefore marks their leadership as one of success or failure.

“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.” – Henry Ford, an American captain of industry1

I always liked this quote from Henry Ford.  He seemed to understand that leadership needs something more than just “doing good things” and rallying people to a good cause.  He noted on several occasions that leaders must have a method of leadership that is driven by a passionate desire.  Without that sustaining meaning, they will drift into obscurity.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/dont-find-fault-find-a-remedy/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Leaders Need a Sustaining Meaning

  1. Doc Blackshear

    A unique and interesting idea you have proposed here for us. I would like to reinforce the argument, made by Gen. Satterfield, by stating that the so-called “need” of a sustaining principle parallels the idea of a “unifying” principle.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Another great article. Thank you Gen. Satterfield.

  3. Scotty Bush

    It is not easy being a leader. And don’t think it was easy centuries ago either. That is why only a few rise to the top. What they have figured out is that the best way to live is with the greatest responsibilities they can bear. The alternative is a life of living in the basement of your parent’s house (metaphorically speaking, of course).

  4. Lynn Pitts

    Are we saying that this is like the search for the ‘meaning of life?’ Or something similar? Now, that I understand.

    1. Kenny Foster

      I think it is something similar, Lynn. Good question!

    2. lydia

      Yes, indeed. You are on to something, Lynn. We all need to know that we make a difference. But just being there is not acceptable. You actually have to DO SOMETHING to really know you matter. That is why college snowflakes are going crazy. Nobody cares about them and they know, deep down, they are NOT making a difference.

      1. Willie Shrumburger

        I’d be freaking out too if I knew that what I do and what I believe is irrelevant. Or as my boss said, “they are just pimples on the butt of society.”

  5. Jane Fillmore

    There is one large category of people who have utterly failed to have a “calling” (my term for sustaining meaning). Those people are mostly in the news media. They have fallen to the lowest level and love to “hate” and love to “destroy.” That is their calling and it is harmful in ways that you and I will never know but someday, perhaps, our children will discover. Great article, again, Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Jane, I’m glad you pointed this out. The news media is a failing institution. I say this after thinking about it for a long time. Just look for anything that has to do with journalism and ethics. You will find little. There are almost no ethics any longer in that profession.

  6. Mike Baker

    Another wonderful article from Gen. Satterfield’s leadership pages. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment he is trying to express here. I know that he likes to say he is no philosopher but Gen. S. often walks into the philosophical river and comes out that much better. His articles are now much deeper in meaning than when he first began. Yes, I’m one of the original readers of his blog.

  7. Army Captain

    We ALL need a sustaining meaning in our lives. Some obtain it from their religion, others from their work, but most of us believe that without it, we will never be satisfied. And, that explains the dissatisfaction we see so often on university campuses.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      I believe, deeply, that students at the college level are purposefully deprived of this. Why? So that college administrators and professors can then exert abnormal, unethical “control” over them. The little snowflake college students are then sent out as robots of a regressive, liberal ideology.

      1. Ronny Fisher

        Hi Andrew, haven’t seen you on recently. Yes, I too agree with Army Captain that we all need somehow a “sustaining meaning” in our lives. Religion is what fulfills that need – an ancient sort of need that we cannot articulate well.

  8. Gil Johnson

    Indeed, we all need a sustaining meaning and, yes, that is only achieved thru the adoption of great responsibilities. Well written.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Thanks Gil. I was too thinking this. You beat me to it. I think that the meaning of life is not built around us but around others who are important to us. That is where the Western-liberal ideology has gone off the tracks. They believe its about me me me and its really about others.

      1. Harry Donner

        Pow, got them right between the eyes. Selfishness always fails. Well, mostly fails but always eventually fails. People today believe this is capitalism but its not. Socialism is not about the “masses” but about the “power over the masses.” And the liberal college professors – being so smart – have yet to realize this.

        1. Mr. T.J. Asper

          …. or maybe they have and that is the point. They are wannabe dictators!

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