"Being a part of success is more important than being personally indispensable."
– Pat Riley, NBA Coach
There’s this old adage that the best people make themselves indispensable to a team. Whilst I can understand the sentiment, it could do with some clarification.
Jason Gorman talks a lot about mortgage-driven development: the idea that the best career move you can make on a software project is to make your self as “indispensable” as possible by making your code as complicated as possible. That way you’ll hang around longer, and be more likely to pay off your mortgage.
In contrast, those who are truly indispensable are those that are able to make themselves dispensable.
They’re the ones who don’t just catalyse change within an organisation, they see it through and make sure the change will continue without them. They train up new leaders to lead their teams, and then hand their teams on to them. They do themselves out of a job at every opportunity.
If you lost one of these people from your organisation, your company would not immediately fall apart, but you’ll have lost a little piece of its soul: part of its ability to grow and change over time. That quality is an essential part of what makes an organisation alive.
Identify the truly indispensable, encourage them, and hang on to them: they will replicate everything that’s good in your organisation.