It was Steve Jobs who famously said: “We are here to put a dent in the Universe.” To make sure, that when we leave, our dent will still be there with our unique name on it is a somewhat of a big challenge. It’s an even bigger challenge to do what we need to do to put the dent there in the first place. This is what being a difference maker is about.
I came up with 6 attributes that characterise a Difference Maker in this 21st century.
- Difference Makers are big picture people. This doesn’t mean that they have to do big things because sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference. Big picture people are open to seeing the world in all its facets. They don’t sweat the small stuff; they don’t get stuck in being judgmental or moralistic; they value and appreciate diversity. They think globally, while acting locally. They have a panoramic view of whatever it is they are contemplating or taking action on. They live, breathe, think and act in a wholistic way.
- Difference Makers are inclusive. They don’t create barriers through which people have to jump if they want to interact or work with them. Instead they are open to all people of good will. They value the diversity inherent in being inclusive. They value connectedness.
- Difference Makers have a multi-disciplinary approach in their thinking and their action. They don’t operate out of one theoretical, ideological or professional mindset. They recognise that truth cannot have boundaries placed around it, nor does it have any closure. They have an ability to hold, contain and synthesise many different ideas from many different disciplines and philosophies in a way that creates new meanings.
- Difference Makers are reflective by nature. They value the exploration of experience, the looking back at it either alone or with others.They see value in the contemplation, that stills the noise in their world and allows them to discover deeper meaning and purpose. They are not, in essence, however, contemplative, but rather action oriented. Their reflection is dynamic and alive and guides their future action. They are problem posers, not just problem solvers.
- Difference Makers embrace, rather than be threatened by, a worldview characterised by uncertainty, unpredictability, ambivalence and paradox. They accept this is reality without being completely comfortable with it. They have developed the self-mastery to live creatively in the tension, straddle the ambivalence and grow stronger. They lead with acquired wisdom, not merely strategy.
- Difference Makers acknowledge, work with and honour complexity. Again they see it as inherent to their world today. They do not try to control and escape it by reducing everything to its lowest denominator whereby in the process they remove the essence. Instead they draw on all the other qualities of Difference Makers above to creatively and innovatively create new solutions.