Do You Prefer Working Inside or Outside the System?


Leaders must become self-aware of the type of person they tend to be.

Two movies came out recently. In fact, they were showing in cinemas across our nation simultaneously. Their titles: “Conviction” starring Hillary Swank, and “The Next Three Days” starring Russell Crowe. Both are intense movies involving a similar plot: The lead character feels compelled to rescue a convicted murderer from prison, whom they know is innocent. Both are great stories.

The interesting difference is this: One tells the story of a woman who decides to become a lawyer so she can investigate then demonstrate that her brother really was innocent of the crime. The other is the story of a husband who decides to plot how to help his wife break out of prison.

In both stories, the lead characters feel frustration with the “system.” Both believe something must be done to right a wrong. Both of them achieve their goal with solutions that required planning, hard work and risk. Neither had a guarantee of success. You’ll notice a big difference however: One worked within the justice “system” and the other worked outside of the “system.”

These stories provide great pictures for us who lead the next generation. Most of us work within a system: a school, a business, a non-profit organization, or a church. Most of us are working for positive change. It seems to me that leaders must become self-aware of which sort of person they tend to be.

  • Are you a person who works best inside a given system, where you can endure the politics of a bad boss, the rules that exist or antiquated policies, and still forge transformation in the organization?
  • Or… Are you a person who doesn’t have the patience for that — you have to make up your own rules and you work best outside the system. You feel the need to create your own system.

By the way — entrepreneurs and change agents can be either type.

The next time you feel compelled to bring about change, you’d be wise to discern first: Will it work best to execute a plan inside or outside the system? And… Which type of person are you?

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