The Energy of Gainful Employment

Leadership gets defined in all sorts of different ways: I’m sure authors and bloggers will never tire of writing about it. Neither will I.

What makes all that writing useful to you, the Alaka‘i Manager reading it, is discovering a definition you love, loving it enough to weave it into your own leadership practice. You’ll find a way to then attach your chosen definition to other ideas and concepts: It becomes your constancy amid change, functioning like an anchor which allows ships to move with rising tides while keeping that ship within a safe harbor’s docking.

From Ideas and Vision, to Energy

In the year or two after I’d published Managing with Aloha, we would mostly talk about leadership as connected to an idea or a vision. Leading then, was about giving that idea or vision more movement somehow, and helping it gain momentum and greater following. It was about bringing an idea to fruition.

In the last year or so, we’ve spoken of both leading and managing connected to a different definition, that of ENERGY. I think of this shift as another drilling down deeper —to what supports our pursuit of great ideas and meaningful visions. You can have a stellar idea, but it will sit waiting in your brain, tucked away in your journal or buried within your priority list if you haven’t the energy to give it —or the pressing need.

  • LEADERSHIP is the workplace discipline of creating energy connected to a meaningful vision.
  • MANAGEMENT is the workplace discipline of channeling that mission-critical energy into optimal production and usefulness.

Great managers cannot channel good energies they are unaware of, or energy which doesn’t exist.

“Workplace energy functions the same way batteries do for your favorite electronics: You can have the most high tech camera in the world, resplendent with amazing features, and it will do absolutely nothing if its battery is dead.”
3 Ways Managers Create Energetic Workplaces

Same goes for people. We are resplendent with amazing features as well, and our capacity for exceptional achievement is so abundant. However we need a power source we can plug into; we need our energy. No surprise that we value a sense of urgency in each other, for when we’re all charged up it seems there’s very little we can’t do.

Therefore that’s how Alaka‘i Managers serve best: They help their people continually tap into their human energies.

Inspiration and Battery Packs

What we’ve learned in our current economic climate, is that gainful employment is our battery pack. It’s the tangible counterpart to our intangible (and more conventional) thoughts about human energy coming from inspiration.

It’s not often that the intangible is what we’ve grown accustomed to holding onto, yet oddly, we’ve done just that with inspiration. It’s a fuzzy concept we’re always hoping for, even when our rational minds tell us that “wishing and hoping is not a great strategy.”

Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I knocking inspiration; it’s something we will always seek and value greatly. However we think of inspiration as rare, elusive and fleeting. We don’t count on it —and we don’t bank on it. We bank on our gainful employment instead.

Gainful employment is our cake: It’s our nourishing energy.

Inspiration is our icing: It’s our motivational energy.

Simply defined, gainful employment is the work we do for income. And income drives our livelihood and our purchasing power. With a few exceptions, we are no longer creatures who live off the land; like it or not, we finance our lives.

Management, whether good or bad, affects jobs and gainful employment. The Managing with Aloha partnering of management and leadership directly affects both the quality and the availability of gainful employment for you, for me, and for our children. It’s important, because gainful employment delivers physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being to those who have it. It finances the exploration of our ability and capacity. It strengthens families and builds flourishing communities, and when it’s missing, that lack of gainful employment can destroy them.

Gainful employment is personal, as personal as it gets.

Professional is desirable, but lofty. Personal is where it always matters most to us, doesn’t it.

Footnote: This posting was a promised follow-up to this:

We’re at our starting block: Today is Ho‘ohana theme day 1 for us here on Talking Story, and our overall goal is collaborative, creative conversation: How we can affect Ho‘ohana job creation for gainful employment?

We’ll talk about how we define “gainful employment” soon.

The Alaka‘i Manager as Job Maker

Photo Credits: Exploring an idea by JJay, and Feeling positive  by Snacktime2007,  both on Flickr


  1. Connie Haskell says


    I am excited to see where this topic will go. My all to frequent encounters with people who have been displaced from their jobs due to the economy can almost be overwhelming. My background in human resources naturally drives me to help them to identify their “gifts” and to use them to either secure a new position or to create one for themselves. We have to think outside of the box, way outside. Our creativity levels have the opportunity to reach new heights. I believe this recession has opened doors to develop gainful employment opportunities that may have never been thought of, or at least not put into action. Never before in our lifetimes have we had to move from “lofty” to “gainful” so swiftly, but that does fall in line with living in the communication age. Thank you for letting me share.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank YOU Connie for sharing, for I too am excited to see where this topic will go, and it does depend on the feedback I get from people letting me know what they are interested in, and what may or may not resonate.

      What you do, in helping people identify their gifts is such a great service to them, for as I am sure you know, we all need that help to see ourselves in bigger, brighter lights that will reach into the previously dark crevices of our complete capacity.

      I had a conversation along these lines just this morning with a good friend emailing me about a job interview he has today: He was so surprised that he got called back for a 2nd interview because his past experience has been so different from the job offering, and I told him, “They may not need your past experience in the same way, but they do need YOU and all the talent you represent right now, today.”

      Connie, I’d love to hear you expand a bit on what you mean by this if you would?

      Never before in our lifetimes have we had to move from “lofty” to “gainful” so swiftly, but that does fall in line with living in the communication age.