Leaders make meaning for their followers. But they also make meaning for themselves. And if we feel that we are not doing meaningful work, we can become angry, frustrated or disillusioned. On the flip side, when we feel like we are making a meaningful difference, we can overcome many of the things that make us angry, frustrated or disillusioned.
Today I met the Skinny Professor for lunch. We had an interesting conversation about the idea of making. The maker culture is a technology based extension of the Do it yourself trend – the idea that you can make your own objects, crafts, or even computer codes. The Skinny Professor has taken to his wood shop to create beautiful things out of wood. But I’ll let him tell you that story.
What is so interesting about our conversation is that he associated both greater meaning and satisfaction with creating something real that you can touch or feel. By having a passion for the tangible, by creating beauty. This stands in stark contrast to the daily life of a professor. We traffic in the abstract. Our only tangible production is words on paper. Often we learn of our successes only years after they have happened. So I can see the appeal of the maker culture. In my spare time I paint and draw, (not well, I admit). I do this do have a product that I can see and touch. Something that is not about logic, rationale or argument.
I sometime wonder if the role of leader is to make followers into leaders. The task of leadership development is to provide people with stretch experiences and then to help them reflect on these experiences in a way that promotes growth. To coach an emerging leader is much like coaxing a sculpture out of stone. The sculptor sees the shape in the stone, but the shape was always there. Leaders have a role in shaping followers and shaping future generations of leaders.
Are you a maker of leaders?