I am enjoying this thread on being a flea. (See my prior two posts). It resonates both with my own life and my view of how business is evolving in the 21st century. Using Charles Handy’s terminology, we will less often find ourselves riding the elephants in this century and more often playing the role of the flea (as portfolio or knowledge workers).
And one of the first things we find out as fleas is that there is no “pre-packaged” formula that we can microwave for success in life. Quite the contrary. We have to remove the “armour” of corporate mission statements and work for ourselves as unique beings.
The difference between living in accordance with a mission and living to create a mission is huge. Instead of being the first to raise our hand in class to answer a question posed by the teacher with the hope of getting a good grade, we strive be first to formulate the most appropriate questions and work on developing answers as we go. And this means a certain amount of loneliness.
It is a leadership attribute to be lonely even in a group. So said Eisenhower after he ordered the D Day landings despite ominous weather forecasts. But I refer to loneliness of leadership in a different sense. We tend to think of leaders in a social sense. Persons who command authority. In fact, as Csikszentmihalyi brought out, social leadership is fickle when individuality is weak. So as fleas, we are talking here about building individual capacity outside of the social sphere. We are lonely inside ourselves. And that is ok.
As Gladwell brings out, this idea cuts against the grain. We are apparently hard wired as humans to join prestigious clubs. In other words, to take on a code of conduct rather than formulate one. Perhaps this explains why we so readily give up our freedoms to charismatic leaders.
So fleas talk about leadership in a different way. Flea leadership demands that we live up to a higher ideal. without ourselves The angelic sides of our natures. That angelic self must be content in its own beauty.