Friday, September 23, 2011

Lump of Leadership Fallacy

As I learn more about myself through my regular therapy ses... mean my business classes, I realized that I was guilty of a logical fallacy. It goes beyond a simple logic error. I have been trapped by this fallacy into a harmful way of looking at my life and my future. I have called this the "lump of leadership fallacy". Google this if you want to understand, my explanation sucks.

*waits patiently for you to get back*

Done googling? Ok, cool. I want to talk about leadership, not labor. I believed, until last week, that there was a finite lump of leadership. People are either leaders or not, and positions that need leaders are rare and finite and those people who are leaders ruthlessly compete for them. This is not helpful. Its not even accurate.

There are many kinds of leadership. There are also many opportunities to behave as a leader in unconventional places. Now that I know this, I've stopped worrying about being a leader or being a sheep. Instead, I focus much more on doing the right thing. In this grad school project, I am trying to do the following:

1. Be myself
2. Do useful things
3. Have fun

None of that involves being a better leader. Yet it has made me a better leader anyway because in order to accomplish those things I end up doing the things that leaders do. Maybe I'll never be a rare inspirational leader figure, but I no longer feel like a sheep.

-------- Beware: Below is my attempt to explain a lump of labor fallacy ---------

In economics there is a concept called the "lump of labor fallacy". This refers to the mistaken idea that if a company chooses to replace an employee with another (usually lower cost option), this is a loss for the employee and a win for the new employee (or robot, or whatever).

For example Company X, which I just made up, decides it would be cheaper to replace its five customer service representatives based in Boulder, CO with five call-center operators in India, at a substantial savings. Five people lose expensive jobs, five other people gain jobs. The theory goes that there is only so much labor to go around.

The problem is that even though this sometimes, briefly, works out this way, there's actually no reason why Company X wouldn't reinvest the savings and maybe higher some new people in order to pursue a new business opportunity. The fallacy is a fallacy because even though the threads are complicated to follow, the amount of useful work that people can be paid to do is tied to growth. If companies grow, so does the pool of uses for labor.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grad School as Therapy

As a teenager I saw a therapist. I'm pretty sure it was a waste of time and money. It wasn't that I was an amazingly healthy, self-aware human that didn't need such deep conversations. Sadly, my poor therapist just had issues determining how screwed up I was (not as much as some people) and what I needed (an intellectual challenge). I was broken, but in all the wrong ways. Eventually I put myself back together and moved on.

This story has a point. College broke me again, in different ways. I lacked self-confidence. Not only was I constantly afraid of screwing up my job, my life, and pretty much anything of value to me, but I also had a poor view of the future. I felt trapped in a life that I could not live up to. So, I made a decision. I quit my job, took some time off, and enrolled in graduate business school.

I could go see a therapist, but I don't want to. I want to go to grad school. I want my masters degree. A completely unexpected side effect is that I feel my broken self getting pieced back together. Everything about grad school is emotionally rewarding. I'm surrounded by other successful, ambitious people who have made similar choices to myself and I am not a weak contributor. It feels right.

I have been assigned a number of readings on the topic of leadership, and these bear a surprising resemblance to various self-help strategies. We are encouraged to talk about these and discuss how we can become better leaders, which is remarkably similar to becoming to becoming better people.

In other words, as a graduate student, I have access to numerous resources on how I can feel less broken. I have a support network starting where I can talk about how my past choices led me to this point. Therapy probably would've been cheaper, but grad school will most likely pay for itself eventually.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grad school has begun.

I'm going to post more regularly, now that I am back in grad school. I need a place to resolve my business school insights. :D