Insightful as ever, Seth Godin writes, "There is a fundamental shift in rules from manual-based work(where you follow instructions and an increase in productivity means doing the steps faster) to project-based work (where the instructions are unknown, and visualizing outcomes and then getting things done is what counts.)"
I see this as the difference between social compliance and personal initiative. Social compliance is the mindset of go-along-to-get-along, do what you are asked, stay in place, don't make waves, and you can pick up your pay check and pink slip at the end of the day.
Personal initiative is a quality of character that looks for ways to make a difference. This is what I find is at the heart of true leadership. When we take initiative, we are taking responsibility for the outcome of a situation. Step forward, fill the gap, do the right thing, don't wait to be asked, take the lead.
All my work is project work, and has been for a dozen years. It suits me because I rarely find that the instructions given to me make sense or are explicit enough so that I don't need to ask questions. It is why I work for myself.
If you have every been accused by your boss of being "too presidential" if probably means that you take too much initiative, and as a result you are a threat.
Personal initiative is freedom. Freedom to excel in all aspects of your life. You probably are like that if you are reading this blog. And you may find that you don't fit in where you are because the impulse to be socially compliant in the workplace is not your cup of tea.
So, what do you do if you are stuck in an organization of lots of socially compliant processes? Take every project that comes along, and initiate to your heart's content. Make yourself valuable because you are going beyond what is expected. Social compliance reaches down for the lowest common denominator in order to keep the peace. Personal initiative reaches for the stars and brings people along to share the trip. Lead.