I listened to this book on audio book about a year ago and thought it was great. I encouraged some work contacts to use it as a discussion book, I supported this group. But the more I re-read the more frustrated I get. It is not that I don’t agree with much of what he says. It is not that I don’t think that we shouldn’t think independently and be innovative. What I have an issue with is that much of this needs to be oriented toward everyone, not just “leaders.” When you orient something toward leaders those that don’t feel like a leader feel like they can ignore that issue. It happens all the time in the church.
The first section today ends with a prime example. “There is no record of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi whining about credit. Credit isn’t the point. Change is.” Maybe he is right about MLK and Gandhi, but I bet that some of MLK and Gandhi’s friends and co-workers probably did whine about credit. And some of them tried to steal the credit from Gandhi and MLK. And at least a few people complained that these upstarts were getting credit for a long history of rebellion. They were at the crux of the issue. But those that were at the start or the end of the issue also need credit.
So what about us. Most of us are not the top leaders. We may lead a part of our organization but not all of it. So do we still give away credit (and still take blame)? The problem is that we live in the real world. This is written to leaders, but most people that read this don’t see themselves as leaders. They see others as leaders. So they can read a line like the one above and just ignore it.
I didn’t see the Simpson’s movie so I don’t know how the movie would have been different. But Groening clearly didn’t push back so far to stop all product licensing. The Simpson’s movie was advertising many thing besides itself. So he did compromise. He got the movie made. To make a movie costs money and while he pushed back in areas that he thought would compromise the story he didn’t in other areas where it wouldn’t compromise the story. That is the key. Finding areas that compromise allows you to continue with the mission. We can be fierce protectors of things that are not part of our vision. Godin never seems to come out and say that (and certainly not in these pages). When we are Fierce Protectors of all things, we often spend all of our time protecting and little of our time accomplishing.
I think I understand Godin’s point here. But he seems to be writing in a bubble at times. He continues on to talk about “Why not now, why not you?” Leaders lead. That is who they are by definition. But leaders leading without purpose is a great problem in this world. So there is a good reason to wait, a least to launch something. Gathering the right people (or at least a core of good people) and defining the purpose are good reason.
This section does remind me of my economics class in college. The last week of the class we had “real world advice” from the economics professor. He talk about how to manage money, why should make it a priority to continue to read and learn, that we should get a newspaper and a magazine subscription and read them and many other random and interesting things. But spent some time telling us to go ahead and get married. He said don’t wait for enough money, just get married. You will make it financially because two people live together for less than two people living apart. (Now this was a Christian college so he wasn’t advocating living together, in fact I think that he actually said that expenses really are higher for a couple living together and not married because you often still have separate expenses.) So I get the just do it factor.
He goes on in the next section to counter some of my previous argument. And I agree perfection is not necessary. But I am just frustrated with a lot of this. Maybe my frustration comes down to the fact that I have made some decisions that will lead to me not being much of a leader. Maybe my frustrations come from the fact that I am only mediocre. But I think we need to teach people to be followers. Giving away credit is great, I think we need to do more of it. But when we are all striving after leading people we are often not sitting and waiting on God. When we are leading we are often leading out of our own ability and not out of a dependence on God. I am not saying all leaders are bad. I am saying sometimes we push too hard. Sometimes we need to spread leadership out a bit more. Sometimes we need to walk away from leadership.