Have you tasted s**t as a leader?

Organizational psychologist Pekka Järvinen noted in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat at the end of last year that having fun at work and feelgood is overly emphasized in current working environment. “It is a danger that an unrealistic picture of working life is being portrayed. Many start to think that doing menial jobs is not worth it, but rather work needs to be creative, one can travel and do all kinds of fun at it. It has been forgotten that one’s own manager is the one, who orders what one needs to do, and in a workplace one needs to comply with its rules. You can’t expect always just to do nice jobs – the workplace is no paradise.”

Järvinen has coached Finnish leaders and managers for decades. At one point I also participated in one of his excellent trainings. Currently – just like then – Järvinen is in the heart of working life. Working cannot be fun for everyone all the time. Every work has the nicer and less nice tasks.

Years ago I read an article, where an experienced leader told of his leadership practices. Regarding recruitments, he always asked the same question of every candidate to a demanding leadership position: “Har du smakat skit (Have you tasted shit)?”

A very good question that should be presented to every candidate. Have you? I have. How often? Often. Where? In all jobs, where I have managed people. If a person seeking a leadership role has not tasted this delicacy, then this person is not ready to lead. Demanding leadership work is not always fun, but often exactly the shoveling. Doing exactly those “not-so-nice-things” and leading them being done.

Performance management has traditionally been the most important job of a leader. Performance management currently is no longer only the privilege of directors and managers, but the responsibility of each individual. Increasingly more companies build their leadership models according to the principle of self-guidance, which requires high competence on individuals to at least lead themselves.

Unfortunately, all do not want, cannot or don’t know how to lead themselves or others. At least continuously or in situations, where nobody has fun. Because of this, leadership is needed. Ultimately somebody or some people lead those self-directing teams also – especially when the substance hits the fan.


Kirjoittaja: Samuli Sistonen
Made in Redland