I’m not a gamer, but when I hear the phrase “call of duty,” the popular video game immediately comes to mind.

In fact, I’ve heard it so much that when I hear the phrase outside of the gaming context, I sit up and take notice. Just what does call of duty mean in the real world? It sounds like a summoning, urging me to take a stand.

Embodying the call of duty

There are so many people who exemplify following that call, but Mahatma Gandhi immediately comes to mind for me. Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa. His call of duty was in representing the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. We all know the rest of the story.

Applied in our everyday lives

I asked some of my compatriots in the Lead Change Group what the phrase “call of duty,” meant to them.

  • “A devotion to a Higher Power, principle or value that calls us to step up… The term in its usual context implies both service and a battle.” ~ Page Cole, leadership blogger and self-described student of life
  • “In my community, where most members work collaboratively and the hierarchy is pretty minimal, the “call of duty” is each member’s responsibility to step forward first and more often … easing the burden of others.” ~ Deb Costello, author, teacher and passionate about leadership
  • There “is the internal call of duty. That is where a great leader adopts and personalizes the calling, truly making it and the mission theirs. The sense of duty becomes bigger, with more depth of scope, and seeing a more broad vision and impact. This type of “calling” will persevere longer in the face of adversity and inspire more to follow and succeed beyond the obligation to merely carry it out.” ~ Paul LaRue, author, writer, blogger, speaker, and encourager of people

What about you?

I’m reminded of the post I wrote a few months ago about behaviors being contagious. On one hand, you find yourself annoyed at someone’s carelessness and in turn, strike out at the next person who crosses your path. Or you observe a good deed, and within minutes find yourself holding the door for another. But the call of duty requires something else. You must initiate the desired behavior first. You must be the role model, the leader. Or, in the words often attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

What is your call of duty? Are you allowing yourself to follow the call?

Mary C. Schaefer is a coach, trainer and consultant specializing in creating manager-employee interaction breakthroughs and work cultures where both organizations and human beings thrive. Connect with her via her EmpoweredManagers blog or on Twitter @MarySchaefer.

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