In his new book, Seth Godin asks that question and encourages readers to find the art in their work.
Most managers like to think of themselves as indispensible to their organization. But even if you feel you're shouldering more than your share of the workload, that perception may not reflect the truth. In his latest book, Linchpin, marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin argues that even complex or difficult critical tasks can be performed by anybody with the skills to do them. Only an artist with the capacity for "emotional work" is truly irreplaceable, he argues.
Godin, whose previous books include Unleashing the Ideavirus, Purple Cow and Tribes, is not suggesting that everyone go out and express themselves on canvas, nor that readers drop everything to become entrepreneurs. Instead, he defines art as "the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person." That means pouring your heart and soul into your work - even if that's as someone else's employee.
Being a linchpin also means managing others as linchpins in their own right. Godin exhorts readers to treat subordinates as invaluable resources rather than delegates, and to encourage others to chart their own paths without waiting for a boss or a job description to tell them what to do.
Specifically, Godin describes linchpins as individuals who:
Godin encourages readers to find what their art is, devote themselves to pursuing it and then give it away. The new economy, he argues, is about offering one's art as a gift without asking for anything in return (though he suggests that ultimately individuals are regarded for their efforts by the market). The important factor is that such unconditional generosity creates "abundance" in people's lives and in the lives of those around them.
To say that Godin takes the subject seriously would be an understatement. "This is a personal manifesto, a plea from me to you," Godin writes in his take-no-prisoners tone. "You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must. I'm hoping you'll stand up and choose to make a difference." Some readers may find this rhetoric off-putting, but Godin backs it up with enough sound reasoning to make a compelling case that at the very least will leave you pondering just how indispensable you can become.
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