Linchpins, Good and Bad

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Seth Godin’s “linchpin” concept. Making yourself indispensable — to the organization, to the boss, to the bottom line — is a good idea.

But, as with any good idea, it’s important to recognize the shadow side. For aspiring linchpins — especially early in their careers — it’s easy to conflate the drive to become indispensable with the desire to please everyone and say yes to everything.

Saying yes is important, especially early on when the path is still broad and opportunities are the best currency. But one of the real points of being a linchpin is to increase your freedom along with your value. In other words, the point is precisely not to get sucked into the idea that to be indispensable means giving up your own agency.

The point of opportunities, of creating value, of becoming a linchpin, is to keep doing more of what Michael Bungay Stanier calls great work, not more grunt work. Each is self-reinforcing, so it’s worth choosing wisely.