Maker Instinct
Ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things,
as well as connect with others in the making.
Everyone has some maker instinct. The challenge is to
turn the natural urge to create into a leadership skill, to synchronize
the maker instincts of leaders with those of others. Many people don’t
realize their own maker instinct and potential. It must be recognized,
valued, and nurtured if it is to become a leadership skill for the future.
Beyond do-it-yourself, we need to nurture do-it-ourselves leadership.
The maker instinct will be amplifi ed by connectivity.
When I go into a new company, I like to ask leaders about their
hobbies. If they have complex, exotic, time-consuming hobbies, it
may be that their maker instinct is not being fully expressed at work.
Perhaps the organization is operating at a routine level that does not
demand deep engagement and does not tap the maker instinct of its
I remember meeting one executive who rebuilt old steam engines
in his spare time. Building steam engines is a great hobby, but this top
executive was overdosing: he had fi elds packed with steam engines.
As I learned more about his company and his role, I realized that
the corporate culture did not tap into the maker instinct. Rather, the
leaders in that company tended to do what they had to do at work,
then go home to do what they wanted to do. They had created a cul-
ture of discipline focused on good management, but they were not
tapping the maker instinct and channeling it into leadership.
I’m certainly not against hobbies, but I am against leadership
roles that focus on bottom line results, telling people what to do, and
following the rules, rather than requiring leaders to get personally
involved in how things work and how they could be improved. For
example, some people like to arrive, give a speech, and leave. They
have no interest in the group process that was unfolding before they
arrived and will continue after they depart. On the other hand, mak-
ers like to see how ideas develop and unfold
—and they like to be able
to infl uence how that happens. Leaders need to get involved in the
messiness of group process to understand the context for decision
making and the underlying relationships among the people working
together. The speak-and-run approach may be considered leadership
on the speaking circuit, but that’s not group leadership. Leaders have
the maker (and remaker) instinct to engage in the process, to gure
out how things work and what needs to change.
The maker instinct is basic and precedes all other skills that will
be needed for future leadership. The roots of the maker instinct run
deep. Go to any beach in the world and you see kids digging in the
sand. Why do they dig holes and build sand castles? These young
makers are honing their maker instinct. My guess is that most suc-
cessful leaders were very ambitious excavators when they were kids.
Leaders are makers by de nition. They make organizations, with
more or less involvement by others.
The leaders of the future will be less controlling, since there will

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