Peter Drucker once suggested that the most important question executives can ask themselves is “What can I contribute?”
As important as the question is, each of should realize that we are capable of several types of contribution; five to be exact according marketing blogger Seth Godin.
His brief enumeration and description of each will give you a better set of choices for action depending on the contribution the situation calls for.
Each one matters, each is intentional, each comes with effort, preparation and reward:
- Leader: The pathfinder, able to get from here to there, to connect in service of a goal. Setting an agenda, working in the dark, going new places and tackling unknowable obstacles.
- Manager: Leveraging the work of others, coordinating and completing, with a focus on taking responsibility. The leader can set an agenda, the manager makes the countless decisions to ensure it gets completed. It’s been done before, but you can do it better.
- Salesperson: Turning a maybe into a yes, enrolling prospects in the long-term journey of value creation.
- Craftsperson: Using hands or a keyboard to do unique work that others can’t (or won’t).
- Contributor: Showing up and doing what you’re asked to do, keeping promises made on your behalf.
I’m sure that I missed a few, but I’m not describing job titles, I’m describing a posture. When you decide what to do next, that decision reveals your sense of what’s the next best contribution you can make. What do you see, who are you waiting for, how do you know if it’s working, what do you need to learn, where is the leverage and who can help?
Yes, these are soft skills, real skills, the skills and attitudes that actually matter. It’s up to each of us to decide how much we’ll show up, how much we’ll contribute.
What would it look like if your contribution was truly significant?