The Reluctant, Non-Conformist Leader

Lately, I have been listening to friends and colleagues regarding their desired career path. You know, the whole, “someday, when I grow up I want to be a (fill in the blank here)” conversation? For the longest time, I believed my own reluctance to lead, my unwillingness to sacrifice my own happiness just to earn that corner office with the window and prime parking spot, set me apart. That somehow I was special and unique and on a different path. I figured that rebellious streak; the non-conformist…defined by my lack of desire to be an executive took me down a road much less traveled.
Not so much…
…turns out, I am not alone.
From my coworkers and friends, I am hearing a definite reluctance to lead. It seems there has been so much focus on scurrying about to determine just how to lead Gen X and Y that the question of whether we want to become future leaders has been ignored like a worn-down speed bump at the local strip mall.
The traditional notion of hierarchical leadership does not resonate with me. I would sacrifice pay, benefits….and even the corner office with the killer view, for a more flexible work schedule…or even no work schedule at all. When I lead, I prefer to do so with a team of peers (and forget the term “peers”, I call them coworkers and more often than not, friends) where several perspectives on the best way to approach something is ideal. I want to lead from my home, the local coffee shop, my car, the beach. Not exactly the job description we see for today’s executive.
According to Matt Dunne, in his article Policy Leadership, Gen X Style, Gen Xers in particular tend to be more entrepreneurial in their style, use technology as a competitive advantage, and learn how to do many different types of jobs. Anne Houlihan takes it a step further in her article Taking Charge stating that Gen Xers value balance; we are indeed results driven and see little value in providing face-time to those leading us. Our goal is to produce and get the job done, even if it is from our home office when a family member is sick…including the dog.  We want collaboration, mentoring, and to be believed, trusted, and valued. We want to have a life and live it too.
Cheryl Cran eloquently stated the view I have observed of many members of Gen X and Y in the following video:

As a leader, I would hire for character, reliability, and results by surrounding myself with people who have the proven ability to get it done, however “it” is defined. The performance of those I lead is defined by their reputation to engage, be present, yet still multi-task autonomously. I am not concerned if your work experience involved raising a family, running a marathon, or writing a paper. If you can produce and are sincerely passionate about the work we would collaborate on, then I am interested.
Perhaps if my fellow members of Gen X and Y decided to redefine what it means to lead an organization, we might be less reluctant to “fill in the blank here” with the term “leader”.

11 thoughts on “The Reluctant, Non-Conformist Leader

  1. “Our goal is to produce and get the job done, even if it is from our home office when a family member is sick … and we want to be trusted…” It’s certainly not just Gen X’rs and Y’rs that feel that way. How many employees are frustrated getting all the work done, bending over backwards to meet the needs of the company, only to have to practically take a lie-detector test to prove they were working while telecommuting? Beyond that, we really are all coworkers, even if one person is tasked with leading others.

  2. Reblogged this on Leadership Voices and commented:
    Generational leadership succession planning and development in the public sector requires new attitudes and insights into how Gens X and Y think.
    The X and Y focus discussed here by Blanchard on collaboration, work-life balance, and less hierarchical organizations offers real challenges to the public sector’s rigid bureaucratic structure. It also offers real opportunities for change leadership from new types of @LeaderVoices such as we advocate for on the Leadership Voices blog.
    It is time to bring these “reluctant, non-conformist leaders” and support their redefined methods of shared leadership into the government sector.

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