The Intertwinement of Personal and Professional Lives

As Millennials begin to move into leadership positions, they will bring with them a littered trail of living life in the public domain. Want to know what the 2025 CEO of GE values? Look no further than his/her social networking past history. By then, many Millennials will have 20 or more years of social networking information stored on public sites; a gold mine of data about the true values of a person.

James O’Toole wrote a brilliant book on values in 1996. He wrote about many things, and distinguishes between private and public behaviors of leaders. He argues that only public, not private, discrepancies determine the worthiness of a leader. I would argue that public and private lives are now the same thing. Who I am at work is the same as who I am at home, and vice versa. This is especially true as more and more people develop “portfolio” lives (to borrow a term from Charles Handy), and mix and match jobs/careers into an eclectic tapestry, not a linear trajectory.

There was no way O’Toole, or anyone really, could not have predicted the interconnected world we currently live in, but his statement that there should be a separation between public and private lives illustrates a belief that we can be a ‘professional’ and a ‘citizen’, and the two lives don’t crossover. That theory was erroneous decades ago and is even more so now. We can’t live two lives, and social media’s intertwinement of our personal and professional lives makes next to impossible now. Just think of how many talented leaders have seen their careers shattered by personal discrepancies or personal errors in judgement.

This intertwinement will create very interesting dynamics in future leadership selections. Want to know what I really think about leadership if you are considering hiring me? In the past, you would rely on your HR Professional to write some supposedly reliable interview tool to ask the ‘right’ behavioral questions. I would answer articulately, you would would be wowed by my hypothetical response, you would hire me, and then wonder why I acted completely different when in the actual leadership role. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find out someone’s true values in an interview.

Now, you can just Google me and decide whether my thoughts, viewpoints, and actions are aligned with the values of your organization. I can’t bluff my way into anything, and astute recruiters have years of online history to comb through if they are ever considering me. Sure, there are privacy issues to deal with and the courts continue to set those precedents. But I look at this as a good thing. Read enough of my posts/tweets/comments/pictures/status updates/likes…and you should (hopefully) get a pretty good feel for who I am. I am a fallible human being, as is every leader you have ever considered to work for you. The big question is, are you willing to tolerate those faults?

I think we will see fewer organizations center themselves around one central leader in the future. It will seem ludicrous to do so, because every leader’s faults will be readily available (or already published in Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair). Organizational values are the collective sum of the values of the individual people in the organization, and are not the same as a single person’s values in the organization. Future organizational paradigms will accept fallible leaders because they will realize we are all fallible. The organizational values will be generated on the collective backs of those fallible leaders; not the back of one of them. Finding a collective form of values, that is not dependent on one person, will lead to much stronger foundations of organizational culture. When we do that, our organizations will survive anything, including the failure of a single leader.

O’Toole (1996). Leading change: The argument for values based leadership. New York: Ballantine.


Millennials in the Workforce: Presentation Info

Thanks to everyone at St. Mary’s Hospital who welcomed me on my first trip to Camrose since I was a kid. It was a very enjoyable afternoon and I loved the questions and conversations afterwards.

As promised, I have uploaded my slides from my presentation. Feel free to download it/share as needed by clicking on this link.

As well, if you want to read more on the subject, you can check out an article I wrote on Millennials and Organizational Design. I contemplate how Millennials willimpact organizaiton design in the future. It was published in Proficient magazine last year and you can download this article here.

David Burkus (the leadership scholar who co-wrote the presentation with me) also wrote a great article that was published in Leadership Advance Online. We based some of our presentation on this article and he elaborates on a few of the points I made today. You can download David’s article here.

If you have any comments/questions/thought, feel free to call/email me. For Covenant Health employees, my contact information is listed in our email database. For anyone else, email me at vanderpyl AT

Leading HR: Harnessing Social Power

HR Departments are often seen as the enforcers of the organization; the unbendable glue that protects it from litigation and unscrupulous employees. This is important, but HR also needs to see their role as one of building and valuing personal networks (Galbraith, 2000). The power of these networks cannot be understated. They form an invisible structure that is more powerful than any formal structure imparted by the organization’s leaders. Employees who effectively understand and navigate the social structure of an organization are the most influential employees, for better or for worse, in the organization.

Jay Galbraith describes the “reconfigurable organization” and argues that this type of organization must be able to reconfigure itself by forming teams and networks across organizational departments. As organizations continue to globalize, this ability to form partnerships becomes more and more complex. Galbraith also wrote that “the long-term human resources role is to build social capital by creating richly connected interpersonal networks across the organization.” Strong social networks within organizations can be a valuable competitive advantage in organizations and HR leaders are perfectly poised to ensure those networks remain strong. They are the people department after all.

This social power is especially important as Millennials continue to infiltrate workplaces. Millennials utilize technology with ease, and regularly engage and connect with their social networks. Thirty Percent of Millennials write openly about themselves online (Accenture, 2010), and I suspect that percentage is higher in 2012 than it was in 2010. The technology is a means to connect to them, not the actual connection itself. Most are unable to fathom life without these social networks: real or virtual. They were raised in a world where social media allowed them the freedom to interact with anyone they wanted to, and where the quality of a person’s ideas determines a person’s status, not their job title. They fundamentally believe that digital assets and knowledge are free. Other generations merely wish to believe this. HR leaders must learn to ride these trends, not just attempt to regulate them. Truly effective HR leaders will use these networks to the organization’s advantage, and increase its overall effectiveness by doing so.

Accenture. (2010). Jumping the boundaries of corporate IT: Accenture global research on Millennials’ use of technology. Retrieved from link.

Galbraith, J. (2000). Designing the global corporation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This is part One of a series I will be doing this summer on leadership by and from HR.