Bill Clinton won the 1992 election (George H W Bush vs. William Clinton) with the James Carville designed slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.”   Clinton toppled the popular president, who had won the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War, by reminding people that we were headed for a recession.

More than once this election season I have heard a reporter or a news commentator used the 1992 slogan and analogy. Even heard a few candidates utter the words.

So the other day when I was being interviewed for the role of a leadership development consultant, I decided to use my own version of Bill Clinton’s now famous line.  When the young HR professional ask me how important I thought leadership development was to a company’s mission I said, “It’s the people, stupid!”

My interviewer was younger than I thought, so I had to back track and explain the Clinton-era reference to him and therefore my brilliant remark lost a lot in the translation.   Even though I didn’t wow my young friend, I maintain “It’s the people, stupid!”

Companies no longer rely in the mass production model of the 20th century.  In the last era of business it was about producing things and people were as interchangeable as the parts they made.

But the more we move away from an economy based on things to an economy based on thoughts, the more we will rely on the uniqueness and creativity of people. 

What is and will be required is a new kind of thinking for the workplace.  Yes, there are still jobs that are process oriented and require metrics and measurements.  But increasingly, right brain-thinking and intuition are what will solve tomorrow’s problems. 

Daniel Pink says in DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the next generation worker will be more motivated by intrinsic rewards than extrinsic rewards such as pay, benefits and status.  And new motivation system, Motivation 3.0, will focus on:

  • The desire to be self-directed (to decide what , how, where and when we work)
  • The desire to master what we do (get better and better at our using our gifts)
  • The desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves (search of meaning and purpose)

Some companies are even going so far as to create ROWEs (results-only work environments) where employees can come and go as they please, as long as you get the job done. 

When you take away all of the management activities around measuring and monitoring, quality control and direction setting, you are left with simply motivating the right group of people to get the job done.   New leadership and management skills will be required to unleash such a self-directed workforce, hence my answer as to the important of leadership develop to a company’s mission…it’s the people, stupid.

Let me know if you are working in a situation that has autonomy, mastery and purpose built into the job.  I would love to hear  your experiences.

Here’s to your success,

Linda K  Sommer