I was bemoaning the fact the other day that the current extreme tightening of funds was essentially sucking the fun out of my current position when I was given this piece of advice - "The way to survive in our business is just to hunker down and ride it out - these dips are cyclical and all you have to do is ride out a few dips - then you can retire!" In the meantime, don't make too many waves and you'll be fine. What wasn't said was "what's fun got to do with it anyway?"
Perhaps this is sage advice, particularly given the industry I am in. However I have a few problems with it that make it difficult for me to swallow. The first is that these "dips" are occurring more frequently than before and the highs never seem as high as they were while the bottoms seem to get deeper. Thus riding them out becomes increasingly harder because you have barely recovered from the last dip when you get whacked again - if you have recovered at all.
Secondly, riding things out and not making any waves is not my style. Not that I'm a troublemaker, nor one who can't ride out a tough period. However, if my career is going to be characterized by mediocrity and just keeping the wheels on the operation - well, I'd rather not. I come to work to make a difference in the organization. The differences don't have to be momentous nor do they have to occur every day, but I have to be able to see the opportunity to create some positive change. If I can't see it as a possibility, I get down. And the last thing a group of employees need is a leader who is down all the time.
Third, what does fun have to do with it? EVERYTHING! I'm sorry, but I spend far too much time at work to not enjoy what I am doing. IT management? - Love it with a passion. It's what I do, and I want to do it well and have the opportunity to do it well. If I feel like a fighter with both hands tied behind my back and then the blindfold gets put on - what good am I anyway? Bill Parcells used to describe quarterbacks as "bus drivers" in that he didn't need a superstar on his team, just someone that wouldn't lose the game for him - someone dependable like a bus driver.
I can be the bus driver, because I know I'm dependable, but I don't want to be just the "bus driver" of CIOs. Although there's nothing wrong with it—and there are "bus driver" quarterbacks who are wearing SuperBowl rings—I don't want to be one for long. Not that I am categorizing myself as a superstar - far from it - but I have the desire to do more than just drive the bus.
Some may see this as foolishness. Perhaps it is. But I know deep in my heart that I can't drive the bus too long without losing my mojo. Besides, if an organization wants to ask nothing more of me than to sit quietly and behave, then what kind of organization am I working for? I want the people that hire to me to want and expect the best I can give them. I do the same for my employees and to not do so would be a disservice to them. At least that's my opinion.
What do you think? Is going to work with an expectation of a sense of purpose a pipe dream anymore? Should one just be satisfied to just have a job or should you want more? Perhaps I have it all wrong and leadership is nothing more than just telling people what to do? (And if you think I believe that - you haven't been reading me for very long). Or perhaps I should just be satisfied to be a manager, and forget about leading? You can do that - I have seen it done - but it doesn't leave me as an inspired employee - what about you?