John Stokvis

May 31, 2022

A great goal to have as a leader is to make yourself "dispensible"

There are so many problems to solve in any organization.

It’s exciting to jump in, identify something that needs to solving, and fix it in your own unique way. But there’s a common trap (one I’ve fallen into several times): creating a Values Oasis.
Will Larson gives an example of a Values Oasis:

“A few years ago, I heard an apocryphal story about Sheryl Sandberg’s departure from Google to Facebook. In the story she apologizes to her team at Google because she’d sheltered them too much from Google’s politics and hadn’t prepared them to succeed once she stopped running interference. The story ends with her entire team struggling and eventually leaving after her departure. I don’t know if the story is true, but it’s an excellent summary of the Values Oasis trap, where a leader uses their personal capital to create a non-conforming environment within a wider organization.”

The way out of this trap? Don’t get into it in the first place

For one, avoid making the solution about yourself. It’s right because it fixes the problem, not because it’s your solution. If it doesn’t integrate with the larger organization, it’s probably not the right solution.

Secondly, if it requires your presence to work, it’s probably not going to last (emphasis mine):

“Perpetuating a Values Oasis is betting your team’s long-term success on your own, and recognizing that ought to shift your ethical calculus. Even when you believe fervently that your values are better for your team, it’s not necessarily an altruistic act of leadership to adopt them if you can’t bring the broader organization along with you.”

If you go on vacation for two weeks, will things stop working until you get back? That’s a red flag.

Creating a pocket in an organization that hums might feel good, but if doesn’t fit into the broader organization, if it only exists because you’re there to protect it, it’s more about your ego than doing the work right. 

Build a solution that will outlive you.