Post-Election Reflections: Conformity and Leadership

“Throughout our careers, we are taught to conform — to the status quo, to the opinions and behaviors of others, and to information that supports our views. The pressure only grows as we climb the organizational ladder.”

– Francesca Gino, Harvard Business Review

Conformity. It’s a word that incites feelings in most of us…good or bad, happy or sad. For some of those millennials you may have seen rioting after the election results came in, conformity is not something that they take lightly. Each generation views rules and regulations a bit differently, and I think this election really brought out the truth of who we are as a people, a country, and a species. Some of us were saddened by the results, as Donald Trump became our President Elect. Some of us were thrilled that Hillary Clinton, a lifelong politician and someone many deemed “untrustworthy” throughout this election, was not chosen by the American people to represent our country for the next four years. But how does all of this translate into conformity and leadership in the workplace? How are the results of this election going to change the way we do business, and the way business looks across the nation?

If this election taught us one thing as a country, it is that we do have a voice. Whether we choose to exercise that voice, that vote, that opinion at work – those are all choices that we have in this great country of ours. I know people are fearful of what may happen in the coming years, but I have hope that we will all come together and move the country in the direction that will make it most prosperous, allow business to boom, give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed, and continue to provide freedoms to the American citizens that are simply not allowed elsewhere in the world. How can we make sure to keep this positivity, this focus on leadership and constructive feedback, and non-conformity while still following the rules to some extent? It’s a distinct blending of ideals that allows the non-conformist to exist in a corporate world. Yet, it is something that we see all over the place in business. From total rewards for employees on the Google campus such as a gym, a cafeteria, and outdoor workspaces, to a global ad agency’s pet-friendly policy, to the remote work possibilities for several large companies across the nation – we are an ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-challenging group of individuals in America. We collectively value business and the ability to make an impact within our workplaces. So instead of arguing what is, let’s band together and make the best of a situation that we all might not be 100% on board with. We have seen many presidential elections, and we have survived them all.

This same theory can be carried over to the workplace when you think about leadership and challenging the status quo and making changes that are impactful and important to the future generations of leaders, learners, and business moguls. We may not always want to work with the management, the supervisors, the CEO’s of the companies we work for at any given time. But guess what? Each of those working relationships is a learning opportunity. Each of those “difficult” bosses is a way for you to improve your communication skills, set new goals for yourself, and set the bar higher each and every time you are faced with a challenge. And the department teams? We all know that those are not ideal sometimes. But again, just like we are hopefully teaching this new generation of “participation trophy” kids, let’s teach ourselves to jump in and do something about it, rather than sit back and complain when things don’t go our way. Because in life, there is no trophy for participating. There is a winner, and there is a loser, as this election has taught us all. But in business, there can be a whole team of winners if you look at the challenges in front of you and work together to break down barriers, jump over hurdles, and prove every nay-sayer wrong.