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Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

Pragmatic Fun

Some people say I have an unhealthy (but vigorous) obsession with antonyms. While my friends (and enemies, no doubt) whittle away their mornings (and evenings) scanning their Macs and PCs for videos of gullible cats and paranoid puppies, I skim and scrutinize online antonym lists. Many would consider my behavior the opposite of sane, but occasionally I stumble upon some colorful or inspiring pairing. Last night, I stumbled upon a unique coupling: pragmatic fun.

I’m perfectly aware that the average excitement explorer would likely spurn a pragmatist like a steakhouse rejects vegan patrons. Pragmatism and fun certainly share an oil-water complex and, as a unit, would be a strong candidate for oxymoron induction. Yet I reject both of these labels and believe that proactive, politically competent leaders forge an unlikely bond between these discordant words.

Conventional wisdom says that the pragmatist is gripped by a rationalism that spoils any reasonable attempt at fun. Amusement parks are rarely arenas of efficiency and streamlined direct deposit systems are not particularly exciting. The same logic would then follow that an aspiring leader should check their sense of humor at the door and submit to a career of pragmatic monotony; unfortunately there are ample case studies to illustrate this assumption. Few would accuse Mark Zuckerberg of being fun and Rod Blagojevich, in spite of Celebrity Apprentice, was not exactly rational. Yet conventional wisdom foolishly forgets that organizations are full of people and personalities.

A proactive leader understands that organizations don’t function like the alienated machines cast in Modern Times or The Matrix. To sustain a motivated and mobilized coalition you must engage your peers. Consider a skydiving president like George H.W. Bush or an eccentric mogul like Virgin CEO Richard Branson. Even pragmatic leaders like Bob Dole or Arianna Huffington find ways to create entertaining organization without resorting to transparent pageantry.

In your organization, you need to find a sincere way to reconcile competing pragmatic and fun impulses. Don’t resort to a canned Michael Scott style pep session but find ways to infuse pleasure into your workplace. Put down the human resource guide to humanity and actually talk to your peers. Every organization houses unique coalitions with unique interest. One organization’s pizza parties could be another’s Origami Club. The key is to be adaptable and engaged. It’s the first step toward marrying pragmatism and fun in your organization and divorcing yourself from the corporate drone stereotype.

I hope I’m right and pragmatic fun supports your leadership agenda. I’d certainly hate to be left.



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