For over a decade, I have been teaching students during our annual From Vision to Action Leadership Training ( http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html ) that one of the key characteristics of a leader worth following is someone who is an architect of meaning. As I point out, every day people in leadership positions routinely confront paradoxes and wrestle with deep questions about the company’s brand identity, competitive advantage, and strategic direction. Often, they get asked such questions as “Who are we?” and “Where are we going?” They solve these challenges by building clarity at the macro and the micro levels of the organization, and helping people understand their role in the process.
One way of creating this depth of clarity is to routinely ask these three questions. First, ask “what do you do at our company?” because this will determine role clarity. Second, ask “What are your priorities? because this will determine goal clarity. And finally, ask “What do you do that matters most?” because this will determine mission clarity. As Kevin Cashman notes, “As you believe, so shall you lead.” I often translate this into “As they believe, so they shall follow.”
Jim Collins and Jerry Porras pick up on this same theme in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994. As they explain, “... we’re asking you to see the success of visionary companies - at least in part - as coming from underlying processes and fundamental dynamics embedded in the organization and not primarily the result of a single great idea or some great, all-knowing, god-like visionary who made great decisions, had great charisma, and lead with great authority. If you’re involved in building and managing a company, we’re asking you to think less in terms of being a brilliant product visionary or seeking the personality characteristics of charismatic leadership, and to think more in terms of being an organizational visionary and building the characteristics of a visionary company.”
As we all know, leaders work on the company while managers work in the company. As summer moves toward fall, we need more architects who design and then build visionary companies. If you need any help in doing this, feel free to call. I always enjoy a good challenge.