The topic of “leadership” is humungous.  I see it in the blogosphere, twitter, google+ and if I spent time on other social media pages, undoubtedly I’d see more talk on leadership.  There are leadership gurus, people who teach honcho principles, being a better leader, how to lead, and it goes on and on.

Where is the teaching on “How To Be a Better Employee”.  “Being an Excellent Follower”.  “Being Service Minded”? We’re sorely lacking in teaching and on the flip-side, the market, for this kind of teaching.

Leadership talk is good and needed, but it’s step #10 in a 15 step process.  When folks haven’t gotten grounded in steps 1 through 9, then you’re building the 10th floor before you even built the parking lot and the foundation.

In 2012, you have a generation (generations?) of people who lack qualities of submission, humility, subservience, stewardship… these are hated words and even antiquated.  No, no, no, today, everyone is a “winner, a leader and unique”.  “Do what you want and push past the boundaries and limitations.”  And there is something to all that positive hoopla, but if you’re missing a balance to life, then having only half the puzzle can be dangerous at worst, lacking and naive at best.

This is a topic that’s been simmering on my mental stove for a while and then seeing this bit of news this past week, made it ready to serve.

The reports:

14 fired at law firm for wearing orange shirts, workers report (this is a link to the article)

In short, a good chunk of staff members, planned to go to Happy Hour after work.  To demonstrate their comraderie, their colleague-hood at the same company, they all wore the same colored shirts, which happen to be orange.   For this action, they were canned…fired.

Surely there had to be an opportunity for them to change their shirts before they went to the watering hole.  And if they cannot change at the office, there is always their car or the bathroom of the bar….

For starters that shirt and collective action is a symbol that says “My mind is not on my work, it’s not the company’s best interest but on what I’m doing after hours and our group outing”.  Kinda a “slacker Friday” mentality.

In this day and age, where employees only look to management for what they can get, how much they are getting paid, the “what’s in it for me” mentality, no wonder management may have been spooked over this action.

Found in one article (and unfortunately I don’t remember where it was on the web to site it), it said the management used the “orange shirt fiasco” as a reason to fire and cut costs.  That may be true.  My advice to that is not give management a reason to be gunning for you.  If you’d come in to your company everyday with one goal in mind, which doing the best job possible for the company, management and yourself, then you’d have less to worry about.

It is Your Job, but You Work for Others

One thing is that employees are not educated, and in turn not considerate of, things from management’s point of view.  Seldom does a staff member consider the trials and tribulations a manager endures;  a manager can handle a large group of people, distinct sets of personalities, distinct sets of problems.  Employees are late, sarcastic, can cut corners, slack on company time and the list goes on.  Once the issues are brought up concerning an employee’s gold bricking the employees then lament that the leadership hasn’t sufficiently motivated them.  The leaders aren’t pulling the best out of them.  You see, it’s all based on what someone else is doing, not on self.  Really, China and the USA are not very different.  I managed a staff from 2004 to 2011 (and now from abroad) and you see this element rooted in human thinking.

These unfortunate individuals didn’t get fired for wearing orange shirts, but fired for making a bad decision.

Leave the funny business at home.  When you’re on somebody else’s clock and receiving a check, it’s time to focus on the job and work, period.  People wonder why they feel stuck in a dead-end position, why they haven’t climbed the company ladder -many times it’s because when they are working and in charge of what someone has left to their responsibility; whether it’s a position, a team, running a machine or any aspect of the job, they are not cherishing it as they should or even to the best of their abilities.

You have to start out knowing how to be a good follower and team player, before you can move up the ranks.  Sure, many people move up without learning these foundational skills.  But it’s not a “good growth”.  Pretty soon, it will be evident and their peers will find out they breezed through the starter courses and need to go back to square one.  Let’s teach more “workmanship” before we can start on the “leadership”.