a Leadership Lesson from
“the Man from Ork!”
In the movie “The Dead Poet’s Society”, Robin Williams as Professor John Keating challenges his students to “learn to think for yourselves”. As a demonstration of “out-of-the-box thinking”, he stands on his desk to remind himself and his students to not merely accept the status quo, but to challenge the ways things are.
Does this just apply to the ivory towers of academia, or do these concepts impact our everyday business lives as well?
- Albert Einstein said that INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- The tag line for a former boss’ email read: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!”
Interestingly, these two quotes could be used to justify either constancy or change. Consistency is one of the hallmarks of most organizations. Once a successful formula is established, management traditionally wants every operating unit to replicate that success and creates multiple policies and procedures to ensure consistent behavior and compliance with their business “model”. Everyone – management, staff, and even the financial community – is happy because they know what to expect → if we do it the way “we’ve always done it”, we can expect the same results!
Don’t mess with success!
As Simon Sinek discusses in his book[i], the tradeoff for this unswerving dedication to these business principles is that responsible dissent is discouraged. He suggests[ii] that organizations become obsessed with WHAT they do and HOW they do it. Employees are managed to accomplish specific tasks more than they are inspired to contribute maximum achievements based upon their abilities.
Yet, if we look at a couple of sports analogies, we’ll see that there are several missing elements to these business models:
- A football team knows that they can’t run only one type of play and expect to have success.
- A baseball pitcher understands that he can’t just throw one pitch to the exact same spot to every hitter throughout the game.
In both situations, the players must adapt to change, as we do in the business world. Sooner or later, the defense is going to figure out how to stop the football play. The same is true with the batters in baseball — a key to success is not letting the hitter know what to expect! Sinek says that successful leaders inspire their organization with a culture of WHY[iii] that allows conscientious employees to challenge the status quo by asking WHY things are done a certain way.
That is the first step in seeing processes in a different way and fuels a spirit of entrepreneurship that will allow individuals in the organization to
SEIZE THE DAY!
[i] “Start with WHY”, by Simon Sinek, 2009, Part 1
[ii] Ibid, Part 2