Why Fitting In Doesn’t Work

Leaders choose to emphasize people or organization. The former celebrate individuality, the later accentuate fitting in. One fits the people to the program; the other fits the program to the people.

Both are necessary. But, balance between the two isn’t possible. One always wins. It’s stylish to say, “People first.” But for the most part, that’s window dressing. However…


People first produces best results.
The celebration of conformity is the path to obscurity.

After alignment with organizational mission, the question isn’t where do you need to go today. The question is where your current people take you. How can you best utilize their unique talents, strengths, and passions?

Stop making them fit in.
Create environments where they stand out.

People as priority:

  1. People before plans.
  2. People before processes.
  3. People produce results.

Leader as follower:

People frustrate when they don’t, won’t, or can’t submit. But, leadership isn’t getting them to do what we want; it’s freeing them to do what they want, within organizational mission, of course.

The question isn’t conformity it’s alignment.
Align with mission, then release for results.

Uncover their talent, passion, and alignment. After that, they’ll tell you the next step. In this sense, leadership is following.

Won’t this be a free-for-all? No! Not as long as shared values set the boundaries of appropriate behavior.


Alignment informs potential. Conformity restricts it. Conformity drains passion; freedom fuels it.

The more conformity you demand,
the more passion you drain.

Mission, vision, and values guide the celebration of individuality and explain healthy conformity. First find alignment, then release.


“How” not “what” provides freedom in an organizational context. Leaders determine what’s important. Teams or individuals determine how.

Recently, a team leader with my organization accepted a short-term assignment. I went to the young team he led, had a discussion about leading meetings, and asked how they would like to proceed. They decided. It’s their team not mine.

How can leaders free people without creating pandemonium?