Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Be a leader not a linchpin

In Seth Godin's popular book, "Linchpin: are you indispensable?", he calls for a new kind of worker, a linchpin, someone who breaks out of the mould and injects passion and creativity into what they do. People should do what they love and look forward going to work rather than dragging themselves through the door every morning and sprinting out at the end of the day. I could not agree more. For a happy and productive society, this is exactly what we need.

However, I am not so fond of another of the contentions of the book: that people should make themselves indispensable. Godin argues that to stand out in the marketplace, people need to position themselves as unique. If no-one else can offer what you have, the market will reward you handsomely. On the surface, this makes sense. Uniqueness equals scarcity and scarcity fuels demand.

Linchpins don't partner
A danger here is that uniqueness makes partnership difficult. If you are focused on being unique, then you might avoid asking other people for help for fear that they will claim some of the available rewards. You might have a business idea that no-one else has thought of. The temptation could be to build the business by yourself, so that you alone will reap the profits.

A lot of internet marketing trainers promote this approach. Position yourself as an expert and convince people that you alone can tell them the answers and they'll elbow their friends in the eye in their mad rush to buy your products. Some people are earning a lot of money this way, particularly the ones selling ebooks titled "How to earn a six figure income selling ebooks online to people who want to learn how to earn a six figure income selling ebooks online".

Look, maybe it works, maybe you'll make money, but I think it's the wrong mindset. I'm not interested in this style of marketing at all because it encourages selfishness and isolation. People don't want to help each other because they're worried they'll lose customers to the other person. It really is a zero-sum game mentality, where you can only get ahead by screwing someone else over.

In the process, internet marketing linchpins are losing a great opportunity to do something incredible. By partnering with other talented ebook writers, they could create a product that would provide massive value to people and generate a far bigger profit pool than they could ever achieve alone.

Linchpins don't succeed
Another danger of linchpinism is when people do make themselves _indispensable_. If you're working for a large company and you set up a new project that only you understand, then management will be so desperate to hang on to you that they'll throw wads of cash at you. There's a good reason for this. If you're the only one who can do what you do, then your project dies with you. What happens if you get knocked down by an out of control vespa? No-one else can run the project. It will be abandoned. Succession planning is centred on this very problem. Linchpins don't succeed because no-one else can do what they do.

If you're only out to make money, then start up as many unique projects as you can. Talk loudly in the office about your plans to go skydiving on the weekend and watch your manager gulp. The next payrise is just around the corner. Keep your team in the dark so no-one can steal your job. Run so fast they can't keep up.

Be a leader
On the other hand, if you want to add massive value to people's lives and create something really special, then make yourself _dispensable_. Put the project above yourself and build something incredible with other people. Be a leader by developing leaders, who can do what you do. Create systems so that anyone can manage the project and roll it out to other locations.

You will succeed through succession - passing on the leadership to someone else and moving on to bigger and better things. Trust in your creativity, your skills and your ability to keep coming up with more ideas. Instead of clawing out a bigger chunk of the pie, make the pie bigger, so that everyone can have more.

The universe is abundant. The only limits to growth are in your mind. Let go of your old beliefs and fears and let other people in. We can all win together.

2 comments:

TooeleTwins said...

I hope you don't mind if I share this particular post with my coworkers. That was incredibly well said. I hope that I'm right when I say that I'm sensing a shift in corporate life (at least in our area, maybe just our company?) where money-grubbing and self promotion seem to be giving way to a more WHOLE-istic approach to creating corporate wealth that doesn't involve stepping on people while scrabbling straight to the middle.

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