Op/ed Fridays: Academics studying leadership versus leadership

September 4, 2015 by Joshua
in Education, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

A reader sent me an article in the New York Times called “Rethinking Work.” It began, “HOW satisfied are we with our jobs?” and continued about polls about job satisfaction and various people’s views on work, implying we should think about work differently—we like work less for money and more for intrinsic reward. The author is a psychology professor.

Articles like this come out all the time. I’m glad academics think about these points, but he doesn’t suggest anything to do. He just writes. I suppose the writing isn’t boring, but what’s the point of suggesting things could be better without at least trying to act? I used to hold academics in high regard, I guess because in my field of physics, academics did most research, but this article was just talk. When did academia divorce so much of itself from practice?

As best I could tell, here is everything you can act on in the article, which I contend is redundant for anyone who already does it and useless for anyone who doesn’t.

we should not lose sight of the aspiration to make work the kind of activity people embrace, rather than the kind of activity they shun.

How can we do this? By giving employees more of a say in how they do their jobs. By making sure we offer them opportunities to learn and grow. And by encouraging them to suggest improvements to the work process and listening to what they say.

But most important, we need to emphasize the ways in which an employee’s work makes other people’s lives at least a little bit better (and, of course, to make sure that it actually does make people’s lives a little bit better).

As a coach and entrepreneur, I make the information actionable for my clients and students. The foundation of my practice is that people love working with others and how to help them create meaning for themselves and the people they interact with. Then I help them act on it, not just know in the abstract that they can, in principle, do something.

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