Giving yourself the title

Giving yourself the title


Two people that I’ve worked with in academia have made an indelible and irrevocable impression on me.
They just don’t “fit the mold” in their places of work. Their job title doesn’t seem to suit them, and they’re always doing so much more than anyone above them even realizes. They don’t just “do work”, but they find opportunities, they transform their centre, their faculty, their team, their whatever, into much more than it would have been without them. They have bosses, sure – but to me it always seems as though they are their own bosses, they’re happy “flying-solo”. They don’t give-in to organisational bureaucracy, they dance with it. They fulfill all of the bureaucratic requirements, but at the end of the day they seem to do what they want anyway – but with the right papers signed.

They don’t “fit” – and it’s perfect.

Finding people like this in your team in a large bureaucratic, hierarchical, political, and in some cases, stagnant organisations, is a beautiful enlightening discovery. Although the bosses above them seem to be more concerned with keeping people “out” in a power-struggle, these entrepreneurially minded individuals simply use the organization as a resource for their cause, as a vessel to make contributions, and are happy to let people join with them, or not.

Ultimately it’s clear they will not be staying in the organization for all of their working lives. They will continue to “break new ground” and most probably will create their own organisations as they seek continue to seek to improve how things are done. They’ll be informing policy-makers, they will be making a positive change, they’ll be working for their cause. Not because someone ever “gave” them the title. Because they were always more, more than any title that could be given to them.

They’re strange, and wonderful – and there’s so much to be learned from their perspective of the workplace.

Stanford’s Tina Seelig posted a short clip from 2009 on twitter this morning (attached above), that encapsulates this notion in a pragmatic sense well:

“When you get a job, you’re not getting that job, you are getting the key to the building, and as soon as you’re in that building, it’s up to you to figure out all the other things you can do.. and In fact if you look at other people who have really been successful that’s what they’ve done. They haven’t waited for other people to anoint them, for other people to tell them what to do”.


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