Book Review: Linchpin (Seth Godin)

With the new book Linchpin, Seth Godin (leadership and business guru and blogger extraordinaire) has delivered part treatise on the new post-industrialized economy and part call to a new kind of leadership and influence. In the hyper-competitive, technology-driven economy, we’ve added a new team to the traditional teams of management and labor.  The new third team is what Godin calls “linchpins… people who own their own means of production, who can make a difference, lead us, and connect us. The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”  As a new economy, society, and culture emerges, linchpins are indispensable to teams and organizations.  Godin’s task is to help define the qualities of the linchpin and encourage people to become/be one. If you’re looking for an “out-of-the-box” vision for leadership as art and gift, I recommend Godin’s new book. Five key themes resonated :

1. Linchpins recognize that the world has changed.  Note: not “changing” but “has changed.” Since the industrial revolution, we’ve hired cogs to run the machine.  And unfortunately, to maximize profits in a capitalistic, industrialized system, cogs are dispensable.  If we can find cheaper cogs elsewhere (i.e., outsourcing), then we will.  Godin identifies the essence and frustration of the problem: “The working middle class is suffering. Wages are stagnant; job security is, for many people, a fading memory; and stress is skyrocketing. Nowhere to run, and apparently, nowhere to hide… Organizations [turn] employees into replaceable cogs in a vast machine.” So the linchpin recognizes this new reality and maximizes the opportunity to bring “humanity and connection and art to her organization.  She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.”

2. Linchpins create art. This was the metaphor that dominated Godin’s book.  “Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.”  Everything we do has the potential of being art… creativity in the way we connect with people to bring life and value to their world… creativity in the way we lead a team to bring out the best in people… creativity in the way we solve problems (old or new) with insightful solutions that bring change to our lives and our world.  As a leader, I want my leadership to be art.

3. Linchpins don’t need maps, they make them. People who need the map, who need instructions, and who are content being told exactly what to do will never be linchpins.  Remember, in the new economy and new world, people who need maps and instructions become dispensable. So linchpins forge their own path and discover new routes to connect people and ideas to bring change and impact.  Linchpins see the world as it really is and have the discernment to develop the right map for the right moment at the right time.

4. Linchpins fight the “Resistance.” In the most challenge theme of Godin’s work, he defines the resistance (the lizard brain). The resistance runs from fear and discomfort.  The resistance tells you not to go into uncharted, chaotic territory. It wants safe. It wants the map. It wants the instructions. “The reason the resistance persists in slowing you down and prevents you from putting your heart and soul and art into your world is simple: you might fail.” Linchpins recognize the resistance and fight it at every step where it would threaten their art of leading and connecting to bring clarity and direction.

5. Linchpins give gifts. Supported by a persuasive exposition of the gift-culture (and the decline of it post-Reformation), linchpins are indispensable gift-givers.  They give their heart and their art often at no costs.  The internet provides scalability to the number of recipients who can receive and connect around their gift.  And linchpins grasp the counter-intuitive nature of giving… knowing that their leadership and art connects and builds “tribes of like-minded people.”  And as we give ourselves (and our love) to others, we become indispensable because we are connectors… connectors of ideas, people, and change.

Have you read Linchpin? If so, what were you thoughts?

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