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It's Actually a Whole Job

When I decided to go into the amorphous world of leadership, change, and culture work in the late 90's, Coach U. was around but no professional coaching association yet existed. The field was still that new. Peter Senge had published The Fifth Discipline (1990) and it was (and continues to be) one of the more important pop culture business books (meaning read outside of higher ed) on organizational change and leadership. Since that point in time, the world has obviously changed quite dramatically. A statistic exists that something like 9 leadership books are written every minute or something. Change, tolerance for amibiguity, 'the people side", lean, agile, personal development, leadership, culture, scale, etc. are highly, highly, highly (over)used words - on websites, in narratives, on job descriptions, in meetings, at dinner parties...

What becomes interesting to me is how when we have a sea change in our culture and trends become norms (or is it norms become trends?), what happens to the substance and quality of the work? If we can say it, talk about it, word drop, does it mean we are actually doing it? Well, the answer to that is "no."

What I find is that people actually feel inadequate - as leaders, managers, experts in their fields - because they know the words, they know the topics, they have read some of the books, and never are short on finding articles on the topics, but they don't feel effective in actually doing it. The reality is that not everyone can be experts in leadership, culture, communication, and change simply because the languaging has infiltrated the narrative of business, publishing, and social media content.

No, we are good at what we do - as technologists, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, chefs, artists, musicians, and educators. In being good at those expertise, there are other people who are good at strategy, culture, communication, change, and leadership. It's not to say individuals don't have strengths, knowledge, and awarenesses in these areas or certain people not having natural abilities. It's that change, leadership, culture work, etc. are actually a whole job and discipline and particular people are skilled and experienced in the theory and practice of doing that work. We partner with technologists, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, chefs, etc. to create a whole - and it's a much better whole than expecting individuals to carry the weight of their own discipline and that of others. Two minds are better than one. And often, by employing the right people with these backgrounds and disciplines, you need fewer people - not more people - to get work done.

Daniel Goleman's EI work was another tipping point - and his work is undoubtedly fantastic and greatly shifted paradigms and attention in good ways. The thing to remember though is as a person with the responsibilities of either a whole organization, a department, or a sector that while leadership, culture, communication, change, and strategy are intrinsic in every role and often (although still surprisingly not always) expected in certain companies, pockets, and disciplines... they are actually a whole body of work and a whole discipline and for good reasons. The work is complex, and it is not a task. It's a commitment, a value, and an approach. Being tapped into your EI and leadership, culture, and change work aren't the same things. (Although, thank you for caring about and working on your EI...)

The feeling of inadequacy actually inhibits people from seeking experts and building this stuff into their own leadership, their organizations, their campaign strategies, and cultures. So, while it's become a norm and a trend, it has also become oddly distilled. And, that is a disservice to leaders and their organizations.

Just because you know the words and the lingo doesn't mean you have the expertise - and nor should you have to. Like anything, the expertise is a long journey, practiced over time with a theory basis that roots in thinkers long before 1990, and yet also includes the writing, thinking, and culture changes since then. You wouldn't think you have the expertise to be a doctor, therapist, or lawyer just because you read a few books and articles on the topic. Would you?

No, because it's a whole job in and of itself - and there are trained, talented practitioners out there. Don't lead alone!

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