Did you see Get Ready to be a Change Maker by Bill Drayton and Valeria Budinich over at the Harvard Business Review this week? The article talks about recent economic history, how we’ve cycled through agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions and are now on the cusp of another change again. In their words:
“We are transitioning from a world in which a small elite runs everything to a world in which everyone needs to be a player.”
Whilst it’s good to see this being recognised and articulated, and thought given to what leadership needs to look like now, I think that academics and business leaders alike are vastly underestimating the effects of a movement that’s been afoot for years already.
For, whilst they’ve been clinging to their status quo world, a not so small tribe of people has been making things different for themselves, without any need for institutional guidance or direction.
I call this tribe The New Work Pioneers.
They may not yet recognise themselves by this term, but, just as surely as the disenchanted Europeans set sail for the New World all these centuries ago, this group of individuals have already left the old world of work for real or metaphoric pastures new.
The tribe’s membership includes those who have ditched traditional workplaces to create their own lifestyles; those – including freelancers and artists – who saw early on that work as we currently know it wasn’t for them; and those who are taking a different kind of consciousness into employment with the aim of giving themselves a more liveable corporate experience.
The thing that has prompted each individual’s initiation to the tribe has been different. Sometimes it has been a personal change, like the loss of a relationship; the birth of a child; a serious physical illness, either of one’s own or of a close relation; or a mental breakdown.
Sometimes it has been a change prompted by an employer: an experience of harassment or bullying; a redundancy or its threat.
Whatever the catalyst, tribe members get to a point where they ask themselves serious questions about their work and its role in their lives. “Does life really have to be like this?” is not an uncommon one. Once voiced, New Work Pioneers accept the challenge of creating a different kind of work for themselves. In this they set themselves apart from the millions who might hear the questions, but be unable or unwilling to answer them.
New Work Pioneers have much in common:
- They value themselves as people and have a real sense of the choices in their lives. They’ve stopped to think about whose lives they’re living: their own or their families and friends. They’ve chosen the former.
- They appreciate the fundamental role work plays in their lives, not only as a source of income, but also as a way of bringing who they uniquely are to the world. They take their own talents, beliefs and values seriously.
- They’re committed to find the way to do what they love and to love what they do.
- Their value of themselves extends to their partners, families and people around them, and to experiences beyond work that enriches them. They know that work and life are not opposing forces, but part of the whole picture of who they are.
- They see the importance of relationship in their lives and take the time to nurture positive connections with people around them.
- They have a readiness to challenge the status quo of work and to rewrite some of the bizarre rules that are in play around it.
- They are committed to their personal growth and development and they see work as a vital aspect within that. They know that as they change, their work changes too, and vice versa.
So, some questions for you: do you recognise yourself in this description? What kick-started your journey into doing and looking at work differently? And what other things do you think New Work Pioneers have in common?