Do you think that jail is bad? How do you know, have you ever been there? Do you know someone who has been there? I have not been in jail, at least not over night. I know a few people who have spent a small amount of time there and even less who have done long term stints in jail. The reports are not good. Couple that with what you see on television and in documentaries and it is safe to say that experiencing jail is a life altering event. Is there a difference between jail and prison? Jail sounds innocent compared to a term like prison. Prison sounds long term, lots of doors and guards, maybe a yard to walk around in, and a bunch of tough dudes staking their claim. The words jail and prison to me are not synonymous, they are uniquely different in concept and implication.

Even more than how prison sounds bad, the word feels bad. Somewhere down in our core as human beings we shriek at the idea of imprisonment. The idea of someone or something controlling how we use our time or talents is invasive and repulsive. We want to be free, we want to feel free and yet, as we examine our lives, we see how we let imprisonment happen. Another more friendly word for this is trapped. People feel trapped in a marriage. Kids can make parents feel trapped. Employers can make employees feel trapped. is not a blog for family counseling so I won’t go there, but we can address the workplace and how the leader can either be considered a prison guard or a success gate.

A prison guard is a harsh title for a leader but we still find individuals acting just like that in the workplace. They work separately, they eat separately, they go home when you are stuck at work, they control, they dictate, they want it their way, and they make it hard to leave. All this in one person is not common, but behaviors related to parts of that list can easily be seen in some leaders. This environment is tough and I don’t wish it on anyone and I try to guard myself from displaying these characteristics as I lead. There is a silver lining here however and that is in motivation. Tom Peters, management and leadership guru, says in his book Reimagine that if you don’t like the things that your boss does, write them down and when you get to be the boss, don’t do those things. Sounds simple! Not so easy when you are in the middle of this environment, but it is good advice. That environment may just be the motivation you need to make an investment in yourself either by some additional training or education, or going off on your own.

A success gate is a much better description of a leader that I want to work for. Not that any specific leader determines your success, but they sure can help along the way. Leaders who engage, listen, respond, and are open to different ideas are leaders who want to create a great environment to work in. When they sense you are hitting a ceiling, they try and help you either reinvent yourself there or help you get somewhere else to meet your goals. They are invested in your personal growth and professional development and want nothing more than success for your life. The second part to Tom’s comments was that if you like the things your boss does, write them down and then repeat them when you get to be the boss.

Do you hear that leaders? We are either training people on what to do as leaders or on what not to do as leaders. We are either increasing their feeling of being trapped, or we are increasing their potential to do great things. Leadership does not happen by accident, we have to own it, and there is a lot on the line.


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