When left alone business systems, like a river, will always gravitate to the path of least resistance. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, because creating an open company culture that is based on the strengths of employees and fosters engagement and creativity is essential—though it certainly goes in the “resistance” category.
It’s worth our energy, though, because building a work environment that does this may be the single most important thing a leader can do in the new economy.
Architecting a workplace that can celebrate individual talents will feel like forging a trail through thorns, at least at first, because it is intensely unconventional. There are a few reasons why this is so. One of these is the myth of “the American Dream.”
Many of us, especially in America, have been told for most of our lives that 1) we can be anything we want to be, and 2) if we try hard enough we will succeed.
But neither of these things are true.
For example: I could practice basketball twenty-five hours a day with the fortitude of Rudy and still never, ever be Michael Jordan. Also, I will never be an NFL linebacker. (If you’ve met, or seen a picture of, me you know this is true.)
These things are just a reality. I can’t do “anything” I might think I want to—at least not if I want to do them well.
But my mix of unique background and talents does mean there are things I can do better than anyone else in the world—I just have to discover what they are.
The same is true for every employee we have. Many of them are—right now, at this very moment… look around—being crammed into positions that don’t fit them.
They’re being told to compete in the NBA, but they are not a basketball player.
And if this is the case, their failure isn’t their fault—it’s ours.
In the emerging culture, this is the job of leaders and managers: to help unleash the immense potential of each employee and to coach each person in finding a position where they and their talents can flourish.
Remember: without followers we are not leaders; we are just lonely explorers.
Leadership is not for you—it’s always for the people who follow you.
Real leadership is, and always has been, about creating a legacy. The primary job responsibility of the leaders of tomorrow will be to care for the people who report to them. Plain and simple.
If we are not doing that, we are failing.
P.S. I did a video and posted a bit more research on this idea awhile back. Check it out here.