Developing high-potential leaders is something most institution aspire to. How can one
tell apart a true leader from a regular person? Well, from the point of view of Josh Allan Dykstra, a true leader has followers, and that is something Dykstra has plenty of. As the co-founder of Strengths Doctors, Dykstra gives guidance to leaders and entrepreneurs, who are wanting to energize their company’s culture.
As a contributor to Forbes, business leaders look to his prescriptive articles for pointers on how to enliven their workplace and to revive potential dead weights in their companies.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Dykstra has published Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck, a must-read for any aspiring, fledging or long-time entrepreneur who want to foster love of work in themselves or their employees.
When you were in high school, did people see you as that student who would go on to
become a great businessman?
[Laughter] I would be very surprised if that were the case. I was a rebellious long-haired musician making terrible hard rock with my two friends in the garage.
What’s the most helpful thing you learned while in college?
That failure will not ruin you. My senior year I got fired from a job I loved—which absolutely sucked in the moment, but with a lot of reflection I learned from the experience. If you’re not pushing the people you work for to the point where you get fired once or twice in a career, I’m not sure you really believe in excellence or in making great art.
Your first degree was in Liberal Arts, and then you turned around and went for an MBA. Was
that due to parental pressure?
Not even a little bit. I was working in the nonprofit sector at the time and wanted to go back into the private sector, but in a completely different area of business, so I knew I’d need something to help jumpstart that process. It didn’t happen right after getting the MBA, but it did pay off eventually.
What made you write Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck?
I personally wanted resolution around a rather large question, namely: “Why isn’t business working like it used to?” I started researching in 2008, thinking the answer was all the different generations in the workplace. Boy, was I wrong. After a lot of twists and detours, I found some answers, but they weren’t anything like what I expected they’d be. Igniting the Invisible Tribe is an easy-to-read book for people who want to know why business isn’t working like it used to, and what we can do to make it work again.
Is it burdensome being an innovator at times?
I suppose so, though I often don’t feel like a true innovator. There are plenty of people who are much more futuristically-minded than I am. I’m more of a catalyst, a firestarter—I’m the guy you talk to if you want to know what exactly you should change so your business will work in the future. I’m interested in operationalizing a better kind of work. I’m interested in making a better future real right now.
What’s the one thing about your life right now, that makes you grin to the rear of your neck?
My new daughter.
Are there days when you feel like you can’t get out of bed? How do you handle those types of days?
Not too much anymore, but I do remember that feeling. Somehow, focusing on what you can do instead of all the things you can’t seem to help, if only a little. Also, finding a few friends you can be completely transparent with and curse or cry with is really good, too.
And since we are discussing mental health as it relates to entrepreneurship, what have you learned about maintaining balance?
That balance is obscenely difficult, but also that we get better at it if we practice. Most of us weren’t taught skills around how to manage our energy—if you’re like me, you probably weren’t even taught to notice your energy. I’d say this is the starting point; develop a deep insight into the activities that fill your energy tank and, just as importantly, the things that deplete it.
You get called on a lot to speak at events…summits, conferences, and get tapped by companies to motivate their employees. How do you keep each engagement fresh?
I try my best to remember who I’m speaking to. I recently heard a quote that said: “Design is empathy.” Whenever I’m designing a new experience for an audience, I do my best to step into their slippers and hear with their ears. I’m slowly getting better at this. The Work Revolution is a movement you started to help foster positive and meaningful work environments.
Do you think that with the way the global economy tends to fluctuate that there will be a trend towards just finding work, regardless of whether it is meaningful or not?
The future of work will be whatever we collectively want it to be. We can build microscopes that peer inside the guts of atoms, we can send humans deep into the blackness of space, we can decode strands of DNA—why wouldn’t we be able to create meaningful work for everyone?The problem isn’t one of capability; it’s one of desire. Until enough of us want this badly enough, it won’t happen. Thus, The Work Revolution project now exists to help elevate this conversation.
Do you have a quote that you live by?
“The greater danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss it. Rather, it is that we aim too low and reach It.” — Michelangelo
What advice do you have for those who want to follow your trails and become multi-faceted
First, learn your strengths and decide if being an entrepreneur aligns with your constitution; please believe me that it is not the right path for everybody. That’s not a statement about competency, by the way—it’s a statement about desire and energy. You are capable of doing a lot of things, but why not spend your life doing the things that energize you most? Don’t let anyone pressure you into being an employee or an entrepreneur. Find your own path and live it confidently.
You’ve quite overly accomplished. Do you feel that you’ve arrived? Or do you still have a few
more things up your sleeves?
That is very kind of you! I don’t feel at all like I’ve “arrived” or that I’ve even accomplished a fraction of what I want to. Until 80% of people are passionate about their work instead of the opposite, which is what it is now, I’ll have plenty of work to do. When we accomplish that, I’m sure I’ll think of another goal. Boredom is my nemesis.