These days it seems that the world is ruled and run by specialists, people dedicated to doing one thing really well.  As business and the world get more developed, and more sophisticated, you don’t seem to see the Renaissance Man any more, someone supremely gifted in two separate fields, maybe representing their country at two different sports, or being a well known ‘thesp’ and a pioneering doctor for example.  It’s just too hard these days.

This is great if you’re good at and really enjoy that one thing.  Your career and life choices become easier, even though you may suffer from career bottlenecks, glass ceilings or lack of a plan B.

But what about the generalists, where does this leave them?  Those that are good at most things, can turn their hand to pretty much anything, but don’t consider or are not considered by others to be a specialist.  For them the dreaded moniker ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ looms, whispered in the hallways or by the water cooler.

In my anecdotally-acquired view, generalists are more well rounded and better adjusted people.  They have more opinions, more dimensions to their character.  Put simply, they’re just nicer, better to have around and get on with.  The trouble for the generalist is that they don’t usually burn with a passion for that one thing.  Choices come harder to them and their natural inclination is to hedge their bets, seek diversity, spread the risk, and be good at a number of things rather than great at one.

Moreover, they’re probably better at their chosen job than the specialist.  And here’s why; they’re adaptable.  It turns out that adaptability is probably the most important skill when it comes to leadership.   And guess who’s best at being adaptable, at moving seamlessly from skill-set to skill-set, situation to situation?  The generalist of course, it’s what they’re wired to be.

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