Happy Monday! We live in a constantly changing, unpredictable world these days. To keep up with change, you need to be agile and forward-thinking. Career ladders have evolved into a more geometric, integrated structure – the Jungle Gym. Today’s discussion focuses on understanding this analogy.
Sheryl Sandberg encourages readers in her book Lean In to view careers as a jungle gym instead of a ladder.
Ladders are limiting. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours, and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.
Globalization is rapidly changing the business world, making it more unpredictable. Career planning was not as challenging ten years ago as it is today. The mythical career ladder is a thing of the past. Now, it’s all about being a better leader and having a plan for advancement. The skills we wish to acquire determine which leadership path we will take. As the analogy shifts from the ladder to the jungle gym, so does the definition of success. These days success is seldom found on a linear path. In the jungle gym analogy, many successes are possible at different nodes of the zigzag pathway. Today, the challenge is to see the future in different directions rather than following a defined path. Our opportunities to experiment, explore, and develop both professionally and personally increase when the pressure of climbing the ladder is relieved. Our definition of success evolves as we define our path.
Jungle gym analogy has numerous advantages. The most important of them are mobility, flexibility, and inclusiveness. A jungle gym has several rungs, some for leaping upward, some for lateral movements, and even some for stepping down to gain specific experience before moving up. Considering our career as a jungle gym offers greater chances for personal exploration. The process combines our knowledge, skills, and interests to create a unique personality that develops over time. It differs from following a set path or process blindly. In our careers, we should be more craftsmen than assembly-line robots. While a career ladder allows only one person to reach the top, the jungle gym helps many people succeed simultaneously. As we are making our way up the jungle gym, we should turn around and pull someone with us – it’s much more fun to chart the path together.
As a leader, climbing alone makes no sense – our relationships with our teammates define us. We often have to be vulnerable with others to grow as a leader. When we teach someone the skill we’re proud to have, we make ourselves vulnerable. Mentoring our team and helping them with a complex project without seeking credit helps us become better leaders. It is our confidence, self-awareness, and sincerity that complement our vulnerability. Being ourselves makes us more vulnerable, but it also makes us more human. Helping others succeed in their careers is crucial for a leader. Sometimes we all need a little help. There is no one-way street to success! Leaders come in many forms, and everyone can be one. But a fancy title doesn’t automatically make a person leader. Having teammates look to us for support, encouragement, guidance, and inspiration makes us the leader.
Thanks for reading.
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