Growing with Organic Leadership

Growing with Organic Leadership by Arnie Wohlgemut

I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times:  “Leave the place better than you found it!”

But at its core, this mandate is a fundamentally flawed.  We assume our improvements will stand the test of time, even long after we are gone.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should not improve things.  That is what strong leaders do.

But we need to understand that leadership is organic.  Leaders change environments.  Subsequent leaders, if they are truly leading, will continue to change that environment.

I regularly have coffee with my best friend.  One day he shared his deep disappointment in his former team as the procedures and policies he put in place were ignored and even violated after he retired!  This really bothered him.  And I admit, I’ve had similar experiences.

The truth is, we can’t expect our way of doing things to make sense to those who follow in our footsteps.  They bring their own experiences to their personal leadership style.  And they may have completely different directives than we did.  Yet our human response is to become discouraged as we see “our legacy” dismantled.

“Leaders change environments.”

In the much the same way, we can’t expect people to change unless they want to.  If the workplace becomes unpredictable or even toxic, many people lapse into survival mode to avoid pain or grief.  That’s human nature – we put more effort into avoiding pain than pursuing what is good for us.

I believe we need to revise that opening statement to: “I made this a better place to live, work or play while I was there, because I valued the people I worked with.”  That is a better way to acknowledge that we can make a difference…EVERY DAY!