You are free to set some rules, to decide where the boundaries are, and what game you are playing. Actually, it is your responsibility. You should do that.
And once that is done, the next step is for you to figure out who is in and who is out, and for others to figure whether they are in or out.
You can’t be everything to everybody.
Take ownership of the process.
When you abuse your power and take advantage of those below you, you put your weakness on display.
When you pay someone one third of a fair salary just because they don’t know any better or they have no other choices.
When you share news that have negative impact on the receiver with a dry note.
When you ask for more despite knowing that a “no” would have negative consequences for the other.
When you point your finger towards someone who does not have it in them to counterargument.
Power is a responsibility towards those who don’t have as much.
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.
If you work in marketing, you have certainly heard this quote by professor Levitt. But that is not true, because nobody wants a quarter-inch hole in their wall. They might want to install some shelves to keep things organized, or perhaps they want to fix the furniture to the wall to prevent it from falling, or they might want a tool that makes them feel more comfortable and ready when there is some work to do around the house.
The point is that you should never stop at your product, nor you should stop at the first thing people do with your product.
Go further, understand their motivations, accompany them on the journey they are taking, and you will be with them all their lives.
You need to subtract, not add.
You need to cut, not expand.
You need to combine, not fragment.
You need to connect, not divide.
And when you are down to the bare minimum, that’s when clarity kicks in. In life, in writing, in business, in projects, in marketing, in communication, you do not get to deep understanding by adding chaos on top of chaos.
And when you are down to the bare minimum, that’s when you can slowly start building. On solid foundation, in the direction you have chosen, taking the right people with you.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
It’s great advice. But if feels difficult, sometimes vague, often out of reach.
To make it more concrete, consider this.
You work at a company that fosters a toxic environment. Everyone is only focused on achieving a reward, to the extent that people barely greet each other when they meet in the corridors, actively hide information to get some edge, and only put a smile on their faces in the presence of a manager.
You can’t take it anymore. You are close to burn out, you are tired of being treated as a machine, and you dread the meeting to set your next goals way more than failing at them.
You have some options.
You can quit. Some do that, not many though.
You can muscle through. Most do that, and of course while doing that they lose energy, enthusiasm, well-being.
You can put up a shield of cynicism and sarcasm. I have done it myself many times. Become the one who has a witty response at the ready, a negative comment for every situation, a superior attitude that eventually will make it impossible for others to take you seriously.
Or you can reach out and ask: “how are you?” Very few do that. Despite the awful situation, very few understand that what is most needed in difficult circumstances is connection. Very few understand that they can be the initiator of something that is going to grow around them. Very few understand that they can indeed be the change they want to see in their world.
It is difficult. It can be done.