Are you a spark?

Erikjan Lantink
3 min readJun 23

To light a fire, you need a spark.

To let a fire go out, you need to kill the oxygen. Or just stop feeding the fire with more supplies of wood. It will eventually dim and then die.

Some people are sparks. Some people suck oxygen. Some people are passive and do nothing. Some people understand they’re constant work in progress and are prepared to work on their growth.

It’s a bit black and white, not permanent and contextual, but there’s a truth to it. Some people see solutions; others see problems.

There’s a saying that to see the change you want; you should be the change.

As human beings, we tend to point away from us to the other person. I’ve done my fair share of finger-pointing in my working life. It took some direct feedback and soul-searching to realize I was holding back.

And still, when I get challenged, it’s not easy to immediately look at myself. It needs some reflection and soul-searching.

To be a spark, you need a strong sense of self, the ability to reflect and learn, and the willingness to see your limitations.

Being a spark does not mean you’re high performing superstar.

It means you’re looking for growth.

Excellent workplace cultures have lots of sparks.

One ‘spark’ exercise I like to do with teams of peers that have to work on a project is to let them self-organize to discover what they need as a group.

I intentionally provide very little guidance and then let them figure it out.

My only guidance is that someone needs to lead the meeting as the meeting ‘CEO.’

It’s a quick way to separate the sparks from the dimmers.

You can immediately see who’s used to taking the initiative and who’s not.

You separate the ‘leaders’ from the ‘managers’ easily.

The ‘leaders’ figure out how to deal with the brief moment of chaos and ambiguity. They see the situation as an opportunity to learn, make a few mistakes, and grow because of it. They’re focused on what can be.

Erikjan Lantink

Business & Leadership coach. Interim Leader. Writer. Speaker. Former Retail Executive (general management; operations; HR)