Gig Economy

Leadership Tip of the Week: Leading On Demand

In a gig economy, the role of leader can be unclear.

In early 2017, I got a Lyft from the airport to Washington D.C. Traffic was dense, and as the car crept along on the highway I asked the driver how he enjoyed his work. He said driving was easy money, and he loved the flexibility because he was a musician and never knew when he would get a better gig.

As we chatted, I learned that he was piecing together a living by driving for both Lyft and Uber, and he was further supplementing this income by delivering meals to people through another application. “There’s a lot to keep track of as an entrepreneur, but I like being my own boss,” he said.

I wondered (to myself) whether he actually was his own boss. It seemed to me that he had many jobs and quite a few bosses (not to mention a complicated tax situation at the end of the year).

After all, who takes the lead in a gig economy?

Although this driver’s role as “his own boss” was questionable, he was undoubtedly exercising leadership skills. From a personal leadership lens, this Lyft driver was self-directing a lifestyle that allowed income from a variety of sources, which means he regularly exercised self-control and management, self-awareness and intrinsic motivation. From a relational lens, he had to exhibit strong communication and decision-making skills.

Fast-forward to 2019, and independent drivers are also making regular income delivering Amazon boxes to customers’ homes because delivery companies cannot keep up. People make money picking up food, walking dogs, buying groceries, housesitting and consulting independently. Some nonprofits thrive due to a rotating staff of talented students or contract workers.

According to Intuit, the percentage of Americans in the gig economy will be 43 percent by 2020. This trend creates an interesting dynamic for both today and tomorrow’s leaders. Though it may not be entrepreneurship per se, it does offer excellent training across both personal and relational (depending on the gig) leadership competencies, which will prove necessary as a person begins to gain followers in any capacity. Even when the role of leader is unclear, refinement of these leadership skills is necessary to navigate our changing work environment.


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