Book: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant
“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds.” Albert Einstein
Today I read about a woman in the CIA, Carmen Medina, who went on assignment out of the country for a few years and had a hard time advancing her career when she came back. She had this idea to create a Wikipedia-like internet system for the CIA to communicate intelligence with other organizations. Two words that kept coming up while reading were power and status. Since Carmen didn’t have either, her idea was unheard and rejected, and when she lashed out in a vocal rage, she got fired. Carmen was told to stay quiet about her idea and her friends started hanging out with her less too; all because she wasn’t following society’s expectation of the boss having more power. Isn’t it sad that unless she conformed to society’s professional expectations, she wasn’t going to be influential within her career? While it made me mad that she was in an environment that didn’t consider new ideas from everyone, I also found the way she voiced her frustration to be deconstructive. You definitely have to share your ideas with your company in a way that’s well received, and sometimes that means showing a value-add and gaining some trust before your idea is tested. Carmen’s idea was eventually implemented, but not until she gained more specialized experience with security and built the foundation for her idea to be implemented. My takeaway from this was that as a leader or a boss, you have very little power over the potential of an employee if they don’t admire something about you, even if a hierarchy says otherwise. Status and power work together, if you’re admired by others you’ll have a much bigger influence than if you abuse the opportunity to lead. On the other side of that, as an employee you have to build the foundations for new ideas before they’re trusted, having something to offer when opportunity arises and doing so in a mature way.