Take Pride in Being Unique

Take Pride in Being Unique

Exemplary leaders also communicate what makes their constituents, work group, organization, product, or service singular and unequaled. Compelling visions differentiate and set “us” apart from “them,” and they must do so in order to attract and retain employees, volunteers, customers, clients, donors, and investors.5 There’s no advantage in working for, buying from, or investing in an organization that does exactly the same thing as the one across the street or down the hall. Saying, “Welcome to our company. We’re just like everyone else,” doesn’t exactly make the spine tingle with excitement. When people understand how they’re truly distinctive and how they stand out in the crowd, they’re a lot more eager to voluntarily sign up and invest their energies.

Feeling special fosters a sense of pride.6 It boosts the self-respect and self-esteem of everyone associated with the organization. When people are proud to work for their organization and serve its purpose, and when they feel that what they are doing is meaningful, they become enthusiastic ambassadors to the outside world. When cus- tomers and clients are proud to own your products or use your services, they are more loyal and more likely to recruit their friends to do business with you. When members of the community are proud to have you as a neighbor, they’re going to do everything they can to make you feel welcome.

“She made me feel proud, she made me feel that what I was doing was special and made a unique contribution,” said Lina Chen when describing one of her most admired leaders. Lina worked in a

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research lab of renowned scientists and talented doctoral students at UCLA, but she herself was neither a scholar nor a researcher. She was responsible for computer support and making sure that all the equipment was up and running without any issues. However, she says that her leader “did not explain my job responsibility to me that way.”

She began by explaining to me the importance of the research that was being done and how it could impact the lives of many people. Furthermore, the more accurate our results from the research, the more beneficial it will be to those that are involved because we can help improve their quality of life. My job to keep the computer equipment up and running was crucial because it makes the researchers’ jobs easier. I was also helping them in improving the environment and making the world a better place. It made my job very meaningful and inspiring to be part of a team that is making a difference in the world.

Leaders like Lina’s at UCLA get people excited about signing on for their vision by making certain that everyone involved feels that what she does is unique and that everyone believes that she plays a crucial role regardless of job title or specific task responsibilities.

Feeling unique also makes it possible for smaller units within large organizations, or neighborhoods within large cities, to have their own visions and still serve a larger, collective vision. Although every unit within a corporation, public agency, religious institu- tion, school, or volunteer association must be aligned with the overall organizational vision, each can express its distinctive purpose within the larger whole. Every function and every department can

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G E differentiate itself by finding its most distinctive qualities. Each can

be proud of its own ideal image of its future as it works toward the common future of the larger organization.

These days, though, with the latest and greatest available in a nanosecond at the touch of a key, it’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself from others. Log on to any Internet search engine, type in a keyword, and up come thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands, of sites and offerings.7 The options are overwhelming. And it’s not just the speed and volume of informa- tion that create problems. Everything begins to look and sound alike. It’s a sea of sameness out there. People become bored with things more quickly than ever before. Organizations, new and old, must work harder to differentiate themselves (and their products) from others around them. Business consolidations, the Internet, the infor- mation overload, the 24/7/365 always-on, everyone’s-connected world demand that leaders be even more attentive to ways in which they can be the beacon that cuts through the dense mist and steers people in the right direction.

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