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Are there Lightworkers in your department?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

This is a continuation of the topic of Lightworkers and Darkworkers currently buzzing around on a few blogs; I wrote about Darkworkers here.

Lightworkers, as defined by Steve Pavlina here,  believe their primary role is to serve the greater good of humanity, and act in general terms selflessly. This doesn’t mean Lightworkers will starve to put food on the plate of others or give all their money to charity; in fact Lightworkers will consciously ensure they are well serviced and maintained so that they can further their own cause.

Lightworkers are everywhere, and there are probably some in your department. Although technical roles are generally deterministic and can seem to lack ‘art’, the way in which a role is performed can be done as a Darkworker or a Lightworker. Like my article on Darkworkers (where I shortened the word to DW) I will shorten the term Lightworker to LW.

Like DWs, LWs walk amongst their fellow human beings sometimes unnoticed.  LWs and their behaviors align to social acceptance more easily but they tend not to dress like angels or Luke Skywalker; LWs have a balanced ego where external appearance isn’t that important. Therefore, you may not always know who is a LW.

LWs will try to encourage and persuade others to be LWs or exhibit the behaviors of LWs permanently or temporarily. This can manifest itself as someone who prompts another person to do the right thing or come clean about failure. A LW will help others to act with integrity and support them if things go wrong. LWs will help others learn from mistakes and turn positives from negatives.

LWs will create opportunities for others to grow and give them the choice to take them. LWs, however, won’t force others to take the opportunities or get upset if they don’t. LWs believe that everyone has their own choices to make and that we all should understand our responsibility in making those choices. A LW is not a Svengali. If you have a coach/mentor that will accept only one path which goes against your own choice (sometimes to the point of emotional blackmail, ie. ‘if you do that and it goes wrong, don’t come crying to me!‘), then they are not a LW.

The mission of a LW is to serve the greater good, which doesn’t always fit into this capitalist, competitive world. A LW isn’t someone who serves the greater good if the good only benefits their organization. So a LW can have a tough time inside a very competitive organization (in it’s market), but she will strive to serve the needs of both and manage a potential conflict of interests. This may sometimes manifest itself as ambivalence (sitting on the fence), but the LW will always do the right thing for the wider community.

LWs will often initiate fund-raising events for good causes or disasters, such as the recent earthquake in China. Has anyone in your organization done anything like that? Sadly, many people get annoyed with this, sometimes because the fundraising is constant! I guess the choice is ours at the end of the day if we are to support fundraising, but one thing we can *all* do is at least offer our vocal support in providing encouragement and thanks – this is free after all!

In a more technical sense, LWs will use communication technology where it’s convenient for other people, and not expect everyone else to keep up with the latest innovation. He won’t choose Skype if everyone else doesn’t use it! In technical discussion, LWs will monitor conversations for signs that everyone understands what is being said, in other words, not allow technical jargon to become inaccessible for other people. He will ensure that the technical content and context are clear to those in the conversation, and follow up with those who struggle with it. Also, technical LWs don’t generally appear wedded to technology, rather, he will be agnostic to technology he is personally invested in so that other people can offer alternatives. LWs know they are not always right! This is a tough characteristic for most technical people. I often find that technical people are blind to other technologies out of faith in their own choice. It’s rare that I find a technician who is truly open to new ideas, even when they have years of experience in a small set of technologies. Technical leaders who are also LWs tend create an environment for their technical colleagues so that they can see the value they add.

And finally, LWs will often exhibit similar behaviors to Darkworkers, but motivated by very different reasons. LWs in business may work long hours, but not because they can go about their business unobserved and make decisions without the input of others. LWs may work long hours to add value to the work of others, sometimes unconditionally and without expectation of reward. LWs will try to rise to the top of an organization so that they can obtain influence. Unlike Darkworkers who will use the power malevolently, a LW will exert authority fairly and to encourage the creation of value. Like Darworkers, LWs may sometimes gather materials for themselves and not for others, but a LW will do so to be a guinea-pig for something potentially risky, without subjecting others to that risk.

You may recognise some of these traits in the people you work with. The proof is in their actions, and in how those people make you feel about yourself, about your work and about others.

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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