Issue Number 3: Leadership and the March of Time
The docents at Montpelier, Virginia, the home of President James Madison and his wife Dolly, share a fascinating story about Madison. One of the most brilliant men of his time, he is said to have read over 400 books in one year in preparation for designing our Constitution. Most of us have probably not read 400 books in our entire lives.
Our world has changed in ways that go far beyond our reading habits. Although the fundamentals of leadership have remained the same for eons, the demands upon leaders have evolved. In my father’s generation, leaders were expected to give orders and workers were expected to obey them. It was a simple zero-sum world – you did what you were told to do or you were fired.
In my generation, self-actualization on the job was thought to be an attainable goal. Work did not have to be drudgery; it could actually be fulfilling. Leaders were expected to take their workers’ views into consideration, in style if not in spirit.
Today, people expect their jobs to be challenging, interesting and engaging. The leaders of successful organizations know this, and they know how to keep their employees challenged, interested, and engaged. They recognize their success is not solely the result of how well they perform, but how well their employees perform, and they invest their time and energy in helping others succeed.
We are not going to be able to turn the clock back to the time when leaders simply gave orders and workers obeyed, or when job satisfaction was an oxymoron. People are not going to settle for workplace conditions that their parents and grandparents accepted. Times and expectations have changed, and we have to change with them or be left behind.
The train has left the station.
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