We have all heard versions of “Clone yourself”, “Make copies of yourself” and the like. At the same time, we have been told to make our businesses “scalable” and therefore more profitable for ourselves. Making many copies of “I, Leader” seems to make much sense, for if the Mark I, Mark II and Mark ad infinitum versions of such a good product as “I, Leader” are produced and function as intended, then we have not only a cash cow but a goose laying the proverbial golden eggs. Yes, cloning seems to be the way to go! When something is repeated often enough, it becomes truth to the hearer and to the observer, and we tend to act according to the “input”. So, even when we hear about making others greater than ourselves or of reproducing ourselves, we tend to make, not reproductions, but sterile clones.
This has affected staffing decisions more than we care to accept. Thoughts like “If only we could have ten Alice Phuas working in the office, how wonderful it would be!” Even though we might vaguely understand that having ten Alice Phuas would not be in anybody’s best interests, least of all Alice Phua herself, we actually go along with the idea and keep looking for people who seem to resemble Alice Phua the way we want Alice Phua to be. That is our basic issue. We pick an individual with traits that we desire and we manufacture more of that individual, thinking that more Alice Phuas, in this case, means more quality output and less internal friction. We know that the frightfully monotonous boredom that accompanies such a thing would be unbearable, but we conveniently ignore that because we want to get things moving efficiently, produce more and earn more! No, it is never a good idea to produce clones of anyone, no matter how good they are.
What ought we to do, then? Reproduce, of course! Reproduction ensures variation, new combinations. No two offspring are ever the same. Unlike cloning, reproduction does not take a model individual and make more copies of that model individual. Reproduction is aligned with the principles governing reproduction and produces not just quantity but variety as well.
In organizations, cloning occurs when attempts are made to get others to copy the characteristics of selected “preferred” persons with little or no reference to the character qualities that produced those desirable characteristics in the first place. Reproduction occurs when proteges are raised and taught how to grow those character qualities in themselves and how to apply the principles upon which those qualities are based in different situations and contexts.
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Brigadier Gerard” series, reference is made to junior Hussars waxing their mustaches, clinking their spurs and letting the ferrules of their scabbards wear out by trailing them along the pavement, in the hope that they would somehow all become like their admired Colonel Lasalle! Of course, senior management team members are not there because of such antics, but because they possess certain competencies deemed useful to the business or organization. That is an example of cloning taking place. Reproduction of Lasalles would have taken, to paraphrase Napoleon’s words, twenty years.
I hope you take the time and effort to reproduce high quality leaders in your organization. So you might be spared the horrors of cloning.