How To Be The Jack Bauer Of Your Company
The fictional character Jack Bauer of 24 was indispensable as an agent for the Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU). He ignored orders. He went off protocol. That didn’t matter, he was critical to the success of the agency and the safety of the country as a whole within the context of the show.
You should seek to be equally valuable to your organization and your industry – that is, if you want to have the same impact in the real world as Jack does fictionally. But while his character and actions are fiction, his personality and actions hold key lessons if you’re serious about changing the world around you.
How can you be the Jack Bauer of your company?
Break process when necessary to get things done
Processes are well and good for many things, but not much remarkable was ever done as part of painting by numbers. If you see opportunity to do something amazing outside your processes, do it. Don’t waste time asking permission, just do what needs to be done. If you break a process to achieve your objective and succeed, the right management team would never be upset. If they are you’re with the wrong team.
Believe in what you’re doing (and bring emotion to the table)
A lot of people check their emotions at the door when starting their day. You shouldn’t do this – especially if you are in a creative industry. Your emotions, directed by the high road, can be a powerful tool of persuasion and allow you to execute far better than you would without them. Believing in what you’re doing requires that you bring your emotions.
I’ve previously promoted the notion you should fear nothing. Just like Jack faced adversaries without fear, you too should embrace this in anything you do in your industry. Fear is a dated emotion, having little relevance in modern society. What’s the worst that can happen to you, really?
Strategist and tactician
It’s a potent combination to be able to not just develop effective strategic plays, but also put them into action yourself. It is the rare strategist who is able to masterfully execute on the front lines and lead other tacticians to success. Further, that individual will have greater respect from the execution team than anyone else on the management team who simply sits in their ivory tower.
Don’t seek recognition
If you notice something is broken, quietly fix it and move on. You don’t need to bring it up to others that you’ve done it — if you’re committed to what you’re doing it’s not about recognition anyway, it’s about winning. Those seeking recognition instead of actually caring about what they are doing don’t deserve to stay at your company.
Ability to persuade others to your line of thinking
If you’re serious about the idea of becoming a linchpin as the concept of this post implies, you need to get your unique ideas executed and change your organization for the better. However, the extent to which you can evoke change on your own may be limited (especially if you’re in a larger organization). If you can persuade others at targeted levels of the organization you will be able to bring big ideas into reality.
The rules don’t apply to you
Rules are for drones and if you blindly follow rules all day you deserve the position you’re in. If your heart is in the right place and rules stand in the way of something, ignore them. If it comes back to bite you later but the rule was absurd, say so and make your case why. Again smart management team members want to see this – I would always rather work with a group like this vs. a team of robots.
Take risks, have contingency plans
You’ll never achieve anything of value without taking a risk. Valuable things just aren’t easy to achieve — everyone else is already accomplishing the easy stuff, meaning none of it is rare or of extreme value. However, along with taking risks, think several steps ahead and ensure you have a contingency plan available should the situation go awry. Failure is always an option – be ready for it.
Fierce loyalty to those who matter
If you’re going to become the Jack Bauer of your company you’ll never get away with that sort of reputation unless it’s combined with loyalty. But ensure your loyalty is to the right individuals, otherwise this can and will backfire.
Be irrationally committed
If you consider your work merely a “job” – you can never be as valuable a team member as someone who is irrationally committed to what they’re doing.
Have opinions, take sides
Standing on the sidelines is for the weak. If you really want to be a key person at your company you need to have opinions or take sides even if it’s not your job to do so. Take a stance on things and the right people will respect you for it.
Be a jack of all trades
All industries have specific areas of specialization within that industry. But you unlock an even more valuable and unique skill set when you study and become proficient at them all as opposed to only having knowledge of one area. Interesting results always happen at the intersection.
Not everyone is going to like you
Inevitably, if you are doing things in a different or unique way, not everyone is going to like you. You may even create some enemies. But consider this a positive: a nemesis can inspire you to live up to your potential and work with greater focus and creativity. Competitiveness is a positive and should be embraced and leveraged.
Jack Bauer is a controversial character. He did things others on the show didn’t understand, and even caused critical reactions in real life. Not everyone liked him – but he got things done, solved problems creatively, was respected by those who mattered and ultimately did what he was passionate about. Can you say the same thing about yourself? Your team members?