Is a Leadership Carreer the anti-FIRE?

Finance
Is a Leadership Carreer the anti-FIRE
I sometimes think that Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) needs a new brand (like the Australian men’s cricket team). Outsiders normally view FIRE people as people who sold their souls to a cubicle while living frugally only to be free one day. That is however not the case as most people have an amazing journey to a next phase while if they actually retire early it is normally far from the traditional retirement, with many activities which in most cases still generate income.

Although I am a big fan of FI and the advantages and options it provides, it is not always clear if I will actually RE. One of the fascinating things which does not totally fit in is leadership. Now I am not saying FIRE people cannot be leaders. But I have always been a bit of a leadership junkie and fascinated by the concept, while unsure if such a career fits the FIRE profile.

Leadership as a career

Recently Tim Ferris had a podcast with Frank Blake. I absolutely love these where corporate leaders are interviewed with some insights into “that” life. Frank sounded like a very down to earth and approachable guy. Surprisingly this is actually how many great leaders and businessman come across. I have always enjoyed reading books from Jim Collins, Peter Drucker and Stephen Covey on how to improve yourself as well as companies and organisations. All the different elements which go into creating a successful organisation and the potential trade-offs are fascinating. All of this while simple concepts can actually have a hugely positive effect on performance, although it is difficult to quantitively prove. It is so ant my engineering brain, yet so cool.

Then there is seeing how these people lived as they are also only humans. Reading biographies of people like Steve Jobs or Sir Richard Branson feels like a fictional world and there is always something to apply to your personal life.

This might not sound attractive to you, or you may even be downright adverse to it. But being a leader in an organisation carries a huge responsibility, while also having the potential to make a huge impact on the organisation, people and society. This can open up so many options to live a fulfilling life, but as with anything in life there is some trade-offs. So, the question is, if you choose this career and really grow into a leadership role in an organisation is FIRE even still on the cards?

Is a leadership career the anti-FIRE?

Being in a leadership role in an organisation carries a large responsibility. This can grow even larger if you are in an executive role of a listed company as you then have additional obligations to shareholders. As investors we would not be happy if the leadership in a company we invest in does not care or create value in some form for their shareholders. Having all this responsibility therefore requires a lot of time and focus to do your job well, especially if you are acting in the interest of people and shareholders.

Putting the responsibility one side, leadership is again a long-term commitment. Commitment to the organisation and the people. You cannot simply step away one day when you feel like it because you are FI. This would totally go against my core integrity as I have been raised that if you do something, do it well and finish it. In any case you must live with this commitment, as with the FIRE journey great companies are not built in a day, actually quite the contrary.

Taking all of this into consideration can you then still FIRE while pursuing such a career. I actually do not know. I do however think you should consider certain things on the journey and reflect on them, so that when you need to make a decision you have already put a lot of thought into it.

Moving into leadership

Here are some points to consider if your career starts going this route but you are on the FIRE journey.

  • Are you enjoying what you are doing? No job is perfect and we are all up against the ropes sometimes. But you should ask yourself and reflect on that “If you could do another job, and have the ability and opportunity to do that job, would you rather do it?” This is normally a good test to ask the inverse by measuring against another option rather than simply asking if you are enjoying what you are doing.
  • Talk to other people. Chat with people whose opinions you respect and knows your work. This can be family, colleagues or people that has gone through a similar journey or career. Sometimes people from the outside can assess your career and organisational fit better than you can.
  • Set priorities. Make sure you have set priorities of what is important for you in life. How will your job contribute to these priorities? For me religion and family are far more important than any job, which means doing a job should not detract from those. You must also consider what opportunity your job will give you to address these priorities. By balancing your priorities while providing the opportunity to potentially have a larger impact on another priority.

Although this is not a cookie cutter solution it is still a privilege to have these options at your disposal. Remember that and be grateful. You cannot plan for everything, so rather enjoy the journey and figure it out along the way. This is the approach I will be taking as my career is leaning towards this path. Hopefully one day when I look back I can tell you how it turned out, what I learned and with a bit of luck no regrets.

Always grow your wealth for tomorrow while being content with your wealth today.

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