Behavior Culture Leadership Learning Mindset Qualities

Are you a spark?

Great workplace cultures have a lot of sparks. People who are not waiting to be told what to do, are pro-active, and get things moving.

To light a fire, you need a spark. 

To let a fire go out, you need to kill the oxygen. Or just stop feeding the fire with more supplies of wood. It will eventually dim and then die.

Some people are sparks. Some people suck oxygen. Some people are passive and do nothing. Some people understand they’re constant work in progress and are prepared to work on their growth.

It’s a bit black and white, not permanent and contextual, but there’s a truth to it. Some people see solutions; others see problems.

There’s a saying that to see the change you want; you should be the change.

As human beings, we tend to point away from us to the other person. I’ve done my fair share of finger-pointing in my working life. It took some direct feedback and soul-searching to realize I was holding back.

And still, when I get challenged, it’s not easy to immediately look at myself. It needs some reflection and soul-searching. 

To be a spark, you need a strong sense of self, the ability to reflect and learn, and the willingness to see your limitations.

Being a spark does not mean you’re high performing superstar. 

It means you’re looking for growth.

Excellent workplace cultures have lots of sparks. 

One ‘spark’ exercise I like to do with teams of peers that have to work on a project is to let them self-organize to discover what they need as a group.

I intentionally provide very little guidance and then let them figure it out. 

My only guidance is that someone needs to lead the meeting as the meeting ‘CEO.’

It’s a quick way to separate the sparks from the dimmers.

You can immediately see who’s used to taking the initiative and who’s not.

You separate the ‘leaders’ from the ‘managers’ easily.

The ‘leaders’ figure out how to deal with the brief moment of chaos and ambiguity. They see the situation as an opportunity to learn, make a few mistakes, and grow because of it. They’re focused on what can be.

They have a growth mindset. 


The ‘managers’ look confused and are visibly uncomfortable with the lack of direction and clarity. They’re afraid to get exposed, lose face, and don’t want to make mistakes. They’re holding to what is.

They have a fixed mindset. 


You want leaders in your teams. 

People who are not afraid of uncertainty see this ambiguity as an opportunity to learn.

Pressure is a privilege, some of them would tell you.

Perhaps you don’t recognize yourself in this, but you do have the ambition to be a leader people follow, appreciate, and see as a role model.

Not because of your position or title but because you help those people grow and care.

If that’s the case, and you’re also apprehensive about showing too much vulnerability, you need to think this through. 

What is it ultimately that you want?

Is it about growing yourself and being the leader people admire? Or is it about a management role’s title, position, and privileges?

If you say yes to being that leader, what are you saying no to?

What thoughts and behaviors are no longer acceptable?

What old parts of yourself do you no longer want to witness?

The first quality you need to have is the art of self-reflection and looking with objectivity in the mirror.

Do you have people around you who will tell you the truth and give you an objective picture?

Are those same people also there when you need help because you can’t figure it out yourself? Do they share their care and appreciation frequently?

Who can help you answer those hard questions?

If you’re not seen as a driver of change, as a person who walks in front of the troops, or who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo, what needs to change?

These are essential questions to answer with honesty and integrity.

It doesn’t make any sense to fool yourself.

Ultimately, it’s just a matter of knowing what you want and deciding to do it.

Your turn: Are you the spark?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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