Fascinating Leadership

The Indispensable Man

It’s quite natural to think of ourselves as “indispensable” at the workplace, in our communities, or in our relationships. We do so much for the people whom we care about after all, right? Just that the thought itself is selfish, arrogant, and implies that we feel “entitled.” Not exactly a great place to operate from. Particularly, if you’re a leader.

Over the years, I’ve realised that there’s no such thing as an “indispensable person.” It’s delusional to think you are. Sure, you can become a linchpin by working hard over time and positioning yourself as a vital part of an organisation. Heck, you’ve even won accolades for the work that you’ve done! But that doesn’t mean you aren’t indispensable. In fact, being recognised as a linchpin (or thinking that you are one) and letting that get to your head is often the beginning of the end of most people.

That’s arrogance at work. It clouds our judgment while making us do and say stupid things. And this is all too common with people with positional authority. They think they can do whatever they want so long as they get the work done and deliver results. What they don’t realise is that the approach is short-sighted and would wreak havoc to their future. How? People will leave, resist, retaliate, and may even form a coup! And you think the C-suite would just sit back and hope “this too shall pass?” No, they won’t. They’ll investigate and throw your sorry indispensable butt out of the organisation.

And they’re thrown out of your relationships and communities too! Most arrogant folks neither have happy relationships nor are respected in their communities. Of course, it won’t be surprising if they feel otherwise and even think the world is delusional! Boy, it gets tiring talking to them or even about them!

Thankfully, I’m not the only one feeling this way. In 1959, Saxon White Kessinger wrote a poem called “The Indispensable Man.” And I thought it beautifully expressed the sorry state of an arrogant person.

Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,

Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.


Kessinger nailed it! There is no indispensable man and to think of yourself as one is a sign of arrogance. The sooner you realise it the better as the price of arrogance is far too high than most people think.

P.S. Sorry, I couldn’t find any entries to Saxon White Kessinger on Wikipedia. I found him and this poem the first time while reading John Maxwell’s Leadershift.