My job is far from simple. At the budding age of 22, I will already have a sizable number of people reporting to me directly. Even when I was an intern a year ago, I was exposed to a gigantic amount of responsibilities that tested me and taught me valuable lessons about how to lead.
Now, after having seen and done a wide and specific variety of many different things, I’m going to start codifying my own philosophy on leadership as a fixture on Why Mondays Are Cool. The only thing I can guarantee is fluidity–which is to say that in time the wording and definitions will change.
In part, this is inspired by the leadership principles of where I work: Amazon. Their leadership principles are proudly listed on their website and are a useful resource not just for amazonians but for anyone who wants to be a leader.
Amazon’s principles are as follows:
- Customer Obsession
- Invent and Simplify
- Are right, a lot
- Learn and be curious
- Hire and develop the best
- Insist on the highest standards
- Think big
- Bias for action
- Earn the trust of others
- Dive deep
- Have a backbone, disagree and commit
- Deliver results
However, their main problem is that they are made for a large workforce and aren’t quite tailored to my needs or experiences.
These will be mine.
In our hyper-competitive age, it seems like there’s always some product or person, or thing that is fighting to capture our attention and our money. For anyone in marketing, the buzzword of the era is: differentiation. They spend millions of dollars and man-hours answering the question of “what sets us apart from the people similar to us.” And as a result of all of this, they spend obscene amounts of money on logos and branding, and on ads that are annoying to all hell.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
A true leader isn’t different for the sake of being different. Leaders recognize that conventions are important and necessary and embrace them with open arms and bags full of Fish McBites from McDonald’s.
By different, I’m talking about perspective.
A few years ago, I was asked to be a guest speaker at an event for the Impact Leadership Village at North Carolina State University. The event, which was targeted towards students of early high school age, was centered around giving them micro lessons in leadership.
Out of anything I could have talked about, I chose to talk about functional fixedness. Basically, a bias we all have where we tend to see an object as good for only its intended purpose. As a part of the event, I had the students give me an object; any object.
Then I had them give me another.
So let’s assume that they gave me the words stool, and a jar.
Their task was to, in two minutes, come up with as many uses for those two objects as possible.
The point was to bring up this exact thing. In order to come up with the most amount of uses, they had to look past the stool and the jar as just at stool and a jar and begin to think about what those things were. A jar, for example was more than just a jar. Smashing it would change its state. Filling it with things changes its purpose. With and without a lid would change the shape. Basically–each item is worth more than the intended purpose. Think Pintrest and Etsy and the borderline unhealthy obsession with shipping pallets and you’re on the right track.
Here is where the secret to discovery lies. Comedians make us laugh not because they bring up issues of social import, but because they take those same issues and re-frame them into a more easily-digestible manner.
In order to be able to crack those top-quality jokes, they had to be able to pick the issue apart into its key elements. Only after doing that could they bring us the lolz.
Big whoop. What does that mean for me?
As a leader, nothing changes. When it comes to any issue, any challenge, leaders pick it apart into its core elements. They look for trends and for ways to re-frame the challenge. They hunt for solutions in the least likely of places, and they seek to understand a problem before running headfirst into it.
My job is to reimagine everything and see what could be. It’s to listen to those under and above me, as well as those to my sides, to uncover the nuggets of wisdom. That’s what it means to be deliberately different.
It’s all about changing perspectives all the time.
˙ǝɯıʇ ǝɥʇ ןןɐ sǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd buıbuɐɥɔ ʇnoqɐ ןןɐ s,ʇı
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Cover photo by Joey Kyber