Is individuality a problem?

Photo of blue & green origami boats being led by a red boat.Yes.

And no.

There, clear as mud, right?

Let’s look at the opposing arguments.

Yes, individuality is a problem…

… when it takes over and squashes good management and leadership.

There are too many instances of the Star Employee! who’s So Great! and responsible for So Much! that they Can’t Possibly Be Fired!

Even though they’re bullies, undermining team morale and – let’s be real here – driving other good employees out the door to the competition.

Individuality that shows up as lone-wolf behavior – rabid lone-wolf behavior – is very much a problem, and should never be tolerated by leaders. If the person cannot be shown how to cooperate respectfully – if they’re uncoachable – then they’re not really a Star Employee; they’re a problem.

No, individuality is not a problem…

… because the reality is, we’re all an experiment of one; we’re all individuals, with our own perspectives, talents, skills, and experience.

The best leaders understand this, and create an environment within the group that allows the full expression of that individuality and respects the value each individual brings to the group effort. They acknowledge the reality of group goals and objectives – there are things to be done and deadlines to meet! – while also understanding that individual constructive input into the process makes the outcome more successful and generally better.

In these groups, different perspectives don’t mean anyone’s wrong; they just mean there are different perspectives that can be reconciled with care and respect, not conflict.

Did I just describe psychological safety?

Yup. But this is the sort of psychological safety that’s not about conformity, acquiescence, or comfort. (I’ve written about those sorts of problems with psychological safety here.) It’s about the willingness to discuss and even debate, but always with respect and dignity.

And that’s where high-performing teams hang out.

This type of psychological safety is key for transformative change.  Drop me a note through my contact form and we’ll set a time to talk.