Stop Acting Like a Temp and Be a Leader

by Alli Polin on March 1, 2013

Temp or Leader is a Choice of Attitude Perspective and Commitment

I had a huge ah-ha this week.  Since I’m only living overseas temporarily, for 2-3 years, I’ve spent little time building local relationships.  Instead, I’ve been focused on maximizing the adventure.  I’ve also made a ton of excuses for why that makes perfect sense:

  • I’m going to be leaving soon enough and I’ll never see most of these people again
  • I’m busy with work and that’s the most important place I can spend my time
  • “My people” don’t live here.  I’ve met some nice people but nobody I want to hang out with too much
  • I don’t wan to attend any of the evening gatherings; I’d rather have time with my family
  • Etc.

Thing is:  We’re all temps.   This is not 1952 where we live in one house for our entire life, work for the same company for 40 years, get the gold watch or the gold ring or the fancy plaque and then retire on our fantastic pension.

The fact that I’m living in Alice Springs for a finite amount of time isn’t unique; it’s just an excuse to not put myself out there.

  • In Consulting, I’ve worked tirelessly with clients from a few weeks to several years, not forever.
  • In HR, I changed my position at least three times in four years also successfully shifting my internal relationships.
  • I’ve changed jobs, titles and organizations each time embracing new teams and new challenges.

According to Job Search:

“Today, the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times (with an average of 11 job changes) during his or her career, which means a good amount of time is spent changing employment.”

I’ll say it again: We are all temps.  It’s behaving like a temp that holds us back from success, not the transitions.  There are no more jobs for life!  It’s up to each of us to make the most of our time where we are right now.  Who cares if we won’t be here next month or next year!  We owe it to colleagues, customers and the organization to be invested today.  We can’t give the best of ourselves when we’re holding back, nor can we receive the best in return. 

Two weeks, two years, 20 years…

You Choose:  Temp or Leader? 

Temps show up, clock in, get the job done, and leave.

Leaders engage with people and ideas and stick around to see things through.

Temps are passionate about a paycheck.

Leaders are passionate about the work.

Temps don’t bother to learn anyone’s name.

Leaders invest in relationships.

Temps get the job done.

Leaders give their all to shared success.

Temps are outsiders.

Leaders are a part of the team and the fabric of the organization.

Temps do what they’re told.

Leaders engage with creativity.

Temps stick with the status quo

Leaders break the frame

Temps stay quiet and under the radar.

Leaders have an opinion.

Temps look towards their next gig.

Leaders are fully present where they are.

Temps fill gaps.

Leaders build bridges.

Temps support the team.

Leaders are on the team.

Temps disappear.

Leaders are missed.

Temps don’t care.

Leaders don’t stop  caring, even when they’ve moved on.

Don’t let your time determine if you’re a temp or a leader with your business, in life or at work.  Each of us gets to choose every day.  As for me?   Watch out, Alice Springs – here I come!

How has focusing on what’s next stopped you from building relationships today? 

(Photo credit)

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Johann Gauthier March 1, 2013 at 6:38 am

Hey Alli !

Working with many casual employees I say unless you as a full-time leader do not create resonate for them, they won’t care.

I bring high intensity and energy for people to be inspired.

Your messages are good reminders of a new world of work, and what leaders can and sould do to ensure all remain engaged and aligned !

Thanks !


Alli Polin March 1, 2013 at 6:44 am

Johann –

Your people are incredibly lucky to have you! You’re right! When there are casual employees, leaders must share their energy and their vision to engage everyone on the team regardless of tenure. As leaders we inspire others to be engaged by showing our enthusiasm, passion and engagement with the work and, most importantly with people because everyone matters and everyone can make a difference.

Thank you, Johann!


Johann Gauthier March 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Everyone matters ~ so nicely said !

Thank you for being there… 😉


Alli Polin March 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

People like YOU make it a pleasure! Thank you!


Ryan Setter March 1, 2013 at 9:17 am


I absolutely LOVED this post – it deeply resonates with me.

In business, as a consultant, with a set of consultants and multiple clients – many of which are relatively short-term and/or project-based – it’s so critical to keep all of these points which you remind us of in mind at all times.

You bring up your situation outside of business, in your personal life – I loved this, you remind us that leadership exists everywhere and at all times.



Alli Polin March 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thank you, Ryan! Yes, consultants live the experience on going “all in” in service of their clients every day. Those consultants that think that they’re just there to hand over a deliverable and get paid are missing the magic of relationships.

Life, without truly investing ourselves, is just a shadow of what can be.

I appreciate you, Ryan! You are a model for the power authenticity, caring and relationships.

Many thanks!


Stephen Lahey March 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

As you know, I just subscribed to your blog recently. Very impressed. Love the way you present the truth as you see it – so directly. Inspiring me to do the same on my site, thanks.


Alli Polin March 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Many thanks, Steve! Appreciate your kind words and look forward to connecting with you!


Dave Moore March 2, 2013 at 6:31 am

What a great post Alli, you nailed it again…the internet isnt big enough for me to quote all the great points you make….You certainly know how to make me think..


Alli Polin March 2, 2013 at 7:26 am

Thank you, Dave! Talk about one that challenges thinking! That’s what you do every day in such a positive way. You always lead with your commitment to helping others find their own shifts and embrace the power of relationships. Life is too short to go through the motions. The time for relationships and leadership is NOW.


Karin Hurt March 2, 2013 at 7:55 am

As large corporations move people around for succession planning purposes this can be a real risk. I think there can be some skepticism that the leader is there to get a “ticket punched” even if that is not the case. Leaders must always lead with full engagement, passion and involvement.


Alli Polin March 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Karin –

Excellent point on succession planning. I knew many leaders that moved from organization to organization or division to division to skip title to title. Right on! The best way to overcome the doubt is for the leaders to 100% engage not only with the work but with PEOPLE.

Thanks, Karin! Great addition to the conversation!


Jon Mertz March 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

Yes! Leaders live awake, and temps sleep walk. We need to act, lead, see, hear, smell… alive!


Alli Polin March 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Jon –

You hit it! It’s the essence of being alive! Living small is no way to live at all.

Thanks so much!


Blair March 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Another great post, Alli! It inspired me to examine all my excuses for not engaging. It was . . . revealing. I am committed to rolling up my sleeves and becoming more active in my community! Thanks for sharing and reminding me that leaders are “present where there are.”


Alli Polin March 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Thanks so much, Blair! It was a revealing exercise for me too. Appreciate that it has helped to inspire you to roll up those sleeves! (although something tells me you’re doing a lot of that already).

Appreciate you!


Chris Rada March 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

There is one factor that is overlooked in this well-written article, . . the suck-up, immature, must “look important”, takes-all-of-the-credit middle manager!

There are those, and many of us have worked with them, who will do everything to make sure that they and they alone get the credit for your hard work. They will watch you create improvements to the department and make sure that they are the ones who are credited. They spend many years crafting the personna of the “perfect employee” while seeing to it that no one else is able to be as good as them. They will speak loudly of their accomplishments while making sure that yours are not noticed until it benefits them.

This is more common than companies like to admit, and anyone with a little sense knows how quickly a problem is solved without admitting when one exists.

Thanks for the article, but like you said, it is no longer 1952.


Alli Polin March 5, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Chris – Temps may be disengaged but you’re pointing out another big problem organizations face – managers that are in it for themselves and the idea of shared success is one that rarely crosses their mind. Absolutely, managers that have a “me, me, me” mentality don’t serve the organization even when they craft their persona of the “perfect employee.” I’d like to think that ultimately, people can see through that and they will either be forced to take a hard look at their behavior and change or leave the organization. Appreciate that you brought this point to the conversation!


Cynthia Bazin February 1, 2016 at 7:21 am

Love this Alli! Your posts are always so inspiring and FULL of great value. Rock on my friend! You are positively extraordinary!


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