“Third Spear-Carrier On The Left…”, or We Can’t All Be The Hero

As I was doing a Bible study group one time, a thought struck me. Bible study stories are always about these front-and-center great heroes and heroines. King David, Esther, Moses, Ruth, and so forth. It was never about “King David’s Third Spear-Carrier on the Left”.

This thought stuck with me and it eventually began to bother me. We can’t all be Steve Wozniak or Buzz Aldrin or Ada Lovelace. Tesla is making some game-changing engineering advancements and has 70,000 employees. Somewhere in the depths of that org chart is a quality control engineer authoring and running tests against a piece of powertrain control software. Does anyone really know who that is? Along those lines, does anyone really know who I am?

A few years ago I was reading On Fire by John O’Leary. He told a great story. Once upon a time, there was a custodian, just quietly doing their job mopping the floors every night. The custodian perhaps didn’t think anyone knew who they were, but one day a very senior doctor at the hospital burn ward the custodian worked at brought them in front of the floor staff and said something along the lines of, “This person’s work is just as critical and important as anyone else’s here. Cleanliness and sanitization to prevent infection are some of the more important details in a burn ward and this person takes care of that for us.”

Your name may not be on the company letterhead as the CEO, but one thing that the COVID-19 quarantine has taught us as a society is the importance of jobs that previously may have been considered minor. We have a long way to go to address the recognition and career reward equity that comes with this, but if you are a leader you need to understand the importance of every job and how it fits in to the whole.

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