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The Diligent vs. the Dilettante

The corner office is not always about the money. If you can manage bigger challenges, and in the “eye of the appointer” you are up for it, the challenge alone may be worthy of your risk in time and reputation.

Look around. There are many people who pull down the big bucks yet who don’t do squat.

The player who is fighting in the arena for more responsibility takes some risks for greater reward and has my undying respect. Then there is the player who bounces randomly on an ever elevating upward arc of invisible Teflon. We envy this person, whether it’s his abilities or his connections or his car.

Political punditry has an expression for this: the diligent vs. the dilettante. (A tip of the hat to the incomparable George Will.)

The diligent, or the person in the last cube on the left, is working hard day in and day out to achieve greater goals and maintain financial status. You can never accuse this “salt-miner” of being a dilettante.

But the hyper-speed ambitious corner office person, appointed with frequency to new elevated positions, is often a dilettante in spirit, if not in fact. He knows that a one or two year hitch is all that is required. Kind of like a coffee break. Good for him.

The risk to the dilettante, though, is huge. The diligent has less risk here as her value is on display every day, even if it’s just breaking rocks. The dilettante deserves respect, too, in that he can walk away from an undesirable post, usually to a new company, as his failure is unforgivable. Sometimes the dilettante is simply thrown away.

The diligent can stumble and recover. The person in that last cubicle on the left has stood the test of time. The diligent always brings steady value.

The dilettante can fail spectacularly. High reward comes with high risk, both personal and professional.

Ask yourself: how much do you want the corner office? How much of your financial security can you gamble on? Do you put all your chips on a one-in-a-million chance?

There is a crucial aspect to note here to being a good manager and subordinate. You have to take constructive (some would say destructive) criticism well. If you let ego get in the way, you’re cooked. If the boss points something out, take it professionally and change it. See it through his or her eyes. If you don’t change it, they’ll find someone else.

Be diligent. It will permit you the flexibility to achieve meaningful personal goals.

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