Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You weren't meant to have a boss

Check out what venture capitalist Paul Graham says about working for a "boss" in this thought provoking post:

I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I'd only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They're like different animals. I suspect that working for oneself feels better to humans in much the same way that living in the wild must feel better to a wide-ranging predator like a lion. Life in a zoo is easier, but it isn't the life they were designed for.

This doesn't mean that working for a large company is bad, or that there are not problems in small companies or working for yourself. This is essentially the problem when working for a "boss" (in quotes because you can have a manager that doesn't share this characteristic): you lose your sense of individuality and creativity. If you are only there to fulfill a predetermined task so that you are an asset or a liability, you are seen more as a robotic machine than a person who can bring much to the table.

I was just having lunch with a friend of mine who is a hard worker and incredibly smart. He left his company recently because his "boss" didn't think he sat at his desk long enough. But I've also had a "leader" when I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers that it felt great to work for and encouraged us to grow and be creative. Size doesn't necessarily mean living behind bars, but size certainly increases the chances that bureaucracy starts building the paper walls for zoo development.

One attitude that seems to be distinctive between the "boss" and the "leader" is that the "boss" often tries to control while the "leader" challenges. This is not only true for profit-seeking companies, but for groups that require any amount of organization. There are plenty of not-for-profit organizations and churches that forget that they are there precisely to take risks and serve a greater purpose - and need people freed from zoos to be at their best. At the same time, loss of control doesn't necessarily mean lack of accountability.

If you are the person in charge, ask yourself this question: Would these people follow me willingly, or are they doing this because they feel they have to?

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