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Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy and Seth Godin: Are You a Conformist?

November 14, 2010
Updated August 20, 2015

This post is a bit of a curveball. I’m tying together the ideas from a great You-Tube video and Seth Godin’s book Lynchpin, and hopefully at the end you’ll feel inspired and ready to practice your own leadership at work, in your community and at home.

A friend halfway around the world sent me the Dancing Guy video. Watch this three minute video, and listen to the narrative carefully (done by creative genius Derek Sivers).

There are incredible leadership lessons about being unique, being the first person to self-initiate and not being afraid to be different. There’s the first follower, seen as the “spark” to building a movement, which must be public. Momentum follows as others join, sharing the leadership. However, it’s important to recognize that there’s no leadership without a first follower. Click here for the transcript of Dancing Guy.

I’ve watched this video several times and each time I develop further insights. For me, one key lesson is don’t be preoccupied with what others think of you if YOU believe what you’re doing is right or natural. This is something I’m still working on. I’m still too much of a conformist, traditionally bowing to authority.

Some months after watching this video, I read Seth Godin’s book Lynchpin: Are You Indispensible? I’ve read several of his previous books and typically found some useful messages. But for some reason Lynchpin has left a greater impression on me. And when I re-watched Dancing Guy recently a spark ignited in my head, linking the video and Godin’s book. So please indulge me while I share some of Godin’s insights and messages.

The American Dream was about conformity. Fit in and you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to. But that mental model is blown apart as niche markets and product customization grow in importance and size. As Godin states:

“You weren’t born to be a cog in the giant industrial machine. You were trained to become a cog….Do not internalize the industrial model. [You’re] a unique human being, and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you’re learning to say it better.”

I love Godin’s core message: be an original thinker, a provocateur. Be a lynchpin in your organization, someone who brings people together and who makes a positive difference.

Or would you rather be, as Godin bluntly puts it, a “TGIF person?”

His later chapter “There is no map” is perhaps the best in the book, and an important point he emphasizes is, “You must become indispensable to thrive in the new economy.”

To do this, we each need to learn how to be “remarkable, insightful, an artist, someone bearing gifts” in our own way. In short, it’s about how we become unique leaders. Conformity within the system is to be avoided. This meshes beautifully with the main message in Dancing Guy.

download Godin shares a great story about Virgin founder Richard Branson. Some 40 years ago, Branson’s flight was cancelled to the Virgin Islands. He walked over to the small airport’s charter desk, asked how much it would cost to charter a flight, and then walked back to the waiting lounge where he held up a sign saying “Seats to Virgin Islands, $39.” He made a subsequent profit on that impromptu business endeavor.

The rest of the Virgin enterprise take-off and growth is history. Branson (now 60) continues to surprise people with his continued creative thinking and innovative products and services.

Think laterally, outside the box. Blow up your personal mental models, the assumptions and baggage each of us carries around, which impede our creative abilities.

What’s your personal next step going to be as a Dancing Guy or Gal?

The new media rewards ideas that resonate. It helps spread them. If your work persuades, you prosper.
— Seth Godin (Lynchpin)

Click here to download my e-book: A Resource Guide to Learning & Leadership.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 10:30 am

    Love the Dancing Guy…love that first follower even more. Thanks for sharing this insight. Now I must go and DANCE!

    • November 15, 2010 1:30 pm

      Thanks Elaine. Being the first follower is risky but it’s where the leadership begins.

  2. November 14, 2010 3:42 pm

    Love the story about Richard Branson and I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog. As you described, Jim, these two men are great thinkers. They are constantly coming up with original ideas and new approaches to old problems. Their mark on history will be not only their own impressive accomplishments, but also the way they’ve inspired others to think creatively and take risks.

    • November 14, 2010 4:11 pm

      Indeed, Susan. We need a lot more creativity and innovation in corporate Canada and America to take on emerging competitors.

  3. Mary Mimouna permalink
    November 14, 2010 3:21 pm

    Wow, I love that story about Richard Branson! I never would have thought of such a solution myself!

    • November 14, 2010 3:27 pm

      That’s what makes people like Richard Branson not just an entrepreneur but a continuous innovator. I’ve seen him interviewed several times, most recently last week on a CBC business show. He’s about to bring a new banking concept to Canada, but wouldn’t spill the beans. We need more people like him (despite his inflated ego) to push the envelope.


  1. You were not born to be a cog… | The Nexus Blog
  2. Why Wreck a Blank Canvas? Guest Post by Derek Sivers « ChangingWinds

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