I heard from two Romanians, a Hungarian, Venezuelan, Pakistani, and one American.  I ran an experiment that shed an eerie light on the book that Jennifer and I have coming out in three weeks, and it also reinforced my thinking about the importance of this “Everyday Leadership” I keep writing about.

The story:  I wanted a 90-second video for my intro leadership class today at Berkeley. I envisioned a series of fast-paced, four to five-second sound bites of people saying things like “there’s a total lack of leadership.” I might have been able to create it, but it would taken me hours. Graham Davis said I should check out

So, I went there, described my project, and requested bids.  Within 15 hours I had six bids which originated from the countries I mentioned above. I accepted the bid from TinyRoomProductions for two reasons:  she had a good rating on the service, and I wanted to keep the work in the U.S. (she wasn’t the low bidder).  So, what does this have to do with Jen’s and my forthcoming book, with Everyday Leadership, and your week ahead?

Our book is about what forces so heavily struck Michigan and its work force. Namely, we’re in a post-Tom Friedman world where the earth is flat and connected. Companies and countries are going after our business, as did my five bidders from “developing” countries.  American arrogance says such countries suffer from economic ignorance.  But, we are the foolhardy ones if we think we are entitled by our history, freedom, or brilliance to dominate economically. Jennifer and I assess the nature of this global change and offer some new prescriptive strategies to adjust to this ferocious, free-lancing world.  Now, what about this story is germane to our micro-worlds where as Everyday Leaders we try to lead every day?

We need to learn to generate value from every individual by creating organizational cultures that function like Freelancer, tapping the talent as I tapped Tiny Room Productions, a.k.a. Brooke who, for all I know is 15 years old and creates with an iPad her parents gave her for Christmas.  There are tens of thousands of unemployed young American college grads who’ve learned Movie Maker, who watch YouTube on a daily (hourly?) basis and who have video cameras on their phones, so why did I only have one bid from the U.S.?  Because we’re not doing enough to generate initiative. Every parent, boss, coach and teacher must be developing self-starters, not waiters – pun intended!  In addition, our organizations need to create fluidity and transparency to allow individuals to “bid” on the work.  We need to put our needs out there and say, “who can do this?”  And we need to put out not only tasks but goals and say, “who can figure a better way to get to these goals?”

Seek bidders!  And become a bidder yourself.  On the plane from Detroit yesterday I met a computer programmer. He said their ten-year old company had been driven by the sales team and growth had been marginal at best. The I.T. geeks grumbled about the narrowness of the sales force and their limiting strategy.  They saw an opportunity to tweak the product and enter a whole new, much bigger market; they grumbled among themselves until they got bold enough to go to the CEO.  He gave them tacit permission to experiment on the side and started to implement their beta. After a month of work he saw more growth than the company had experienced in the prior year. Now, the IT creators are the main drivers at the firm.  Everyday Leaders initiate. They bid on the work.

If you’re “da boss,” how can you create the on-ramps, the access points, so your people can contribute on the big goals and important tasks? In your company (church, school, family, etc.) Everyday Leaders are lurking (or smirking?) at what’s happening. How do you get them to BID on the work?  In today’s world to thrive, you’ve got to open the work a whole lot to

Lead with your best self,


  • August 29, 2011

    Dear Dan:

    Great article on Freelancing. I will share your thoughts with my grad students at Eastern Michigan University on how to approach today’s world of work.

    Best regards, Bill
    Bill Moylan
    U of D Jesuit HS-Class of 1970

  • More Americans are working as consultants or freelancers, either having given up or been forced out of the salaried world of 9 to 5. It’s a trend that began after the economic downturn of the late 1980s, when I became a management consultant.

    Evidence now suggests that this is our new economic condition. Today, in fact, 20% to 23% of U.S. workers are operating as consultants, freelancers, free agents, contractors or micropreneurs. Current projections see the number only rising in coming years. Imagine one in four workers, of all collars, working on a contingent basis. Whole career paths and professions have shifted from stable full-time jobs with definable career ladders and benefits to almost completely contingent work forces that shift from project to project.

  • The analogy is good, but imperfect in several critical ways. First, the ability to produce digital content is now almost universally available. Digital cameras, the ease of web based tools and the comfort with technology make this market a truly “flat” playing field. Creating digital content is a real tradable product, meaning the source of it is immaterial. What I find different about the Michigan analogy is that an established market was overturned, in part because of the very issue quoted in your piece. The story of the IT firm who were stymied by narrow thinking can be overlaid on the behavior of US automakers.

    There is not a lack of initiative, but a gap in innovation. What is stopping us from making truly great leaps in markets and society is not related ot a shortage of desire (initiative) but a dearth of ideas (innovation). How do you as a LEADER foster ideas – not unlike the IT group mentioned – and allow for room to succeed and fail?

    • Jon,
      Your connection to the auto world is surely spot on. Lots of people knew the problems were huge, yet the organization as a whole wasn’t nearly as smart as the sum of its parts. So, a more fluid network of ideas would have certainly helped.
      I don’t disagree in the least that we lack for innovation. But what I am saying is that people think innovation must “come from the innovation department,” i.e., they lack the initiative and the empowerment to see themselves as responsible for innovation. A child does not think it’s his or her responsibility to creatively deal with a repeated conflict where the family system isn’t working. But they can. Indeed, they may have more native skill or intuition than a parent. My 21 year old leads me. She could well have led me 10 years ago if I didn’t have what now seems to be a half-crazy idea that “father knows best.” So I think innovation and initiative are close siblings.

  • Conversation with a telemarketer

    Hello, (name of our business).
    “Is the busienss owner there?
    No,may I help you?
    Long pause . . . . ” Is the person who handles the answering service there?”
    Yes, can I help you?
    “Are you satisfied with your ansering service?”
    “I will bet your company is not in Michigan, but another state.
    “What does that matter we anser phones in all 50 states.”
    If your company was in Michigan you would spend your money here.
    “What difference does that make, are you satisfied witho your ansering service?”
    Pleas put us on your do nto call list, goodbye.

  • Hi Dan,
    The Universe works in amazing ways. Over the weekend I was challenged to start doing less by encouraging and enabling others to do more…to move from a “doer” to a “teacher and mentor” in the workplace. When your Everyday Leadership message arrived in my box this morning it provided a way for me to begin thinking about this challenge differently. Thanks for the inspiration and for getting my creative juices flowing.

  • Dan,

    This is a terrific article and one that should awaken all of your readers, if they are asleep to this notion of “flatness” and the waking of the “Third World (our arrogant definition) Economic Appetitie”. I am a big fan of your weekly column, and thought this was one of the best ones yet.

  • Dear Dan,
    I do agree on your comment about Freelancing experience.Sometimes I wish people can lean to accept each other.Keep the good work.Extend my greetings to your wife your children.

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