Effective leaders are able to comprehend and work on multiple levels at the same time.
This seems like another blinding flash of the obvious or words straight from the mouth of the Oracle of the Obvious. Yet, so many people don’t really grasp it. In the beginning, many leaders approach their work with three key perspectives in mind, namely where are we now?, where do we need to prepare for the future?, and where do we need to innovate? These questions become more and more important as pace and complexity pick up.
Yet, there are days when I like to step aside from these pressing questions and instead focus on a key relationship between two elements within a company. In their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 1994), Jim Collins and Jerry Porras note that visionary companies do two things very well, namely they preserve their core ideology and at the exact same time have a fundamental drive for progress. The former provides continuity and stability during change and the later urges continual change. The former limits possibilities and directions for the company to only those consistent with the content of the ideology while the later expands the number and variety of possibilities that the company can consider. Finally the former, i.e. having a core ideology, is by its very nature a conservative act while the later, i.e. a drive for progress, can lead to dramatic, radical and even revolutionary change. As they explain, “The interplay between core and progress is one of the most important findings in our work [a six year research project]..... a visionary company does not seek mere balance between core and progress; it seeks to be both highly ideological and highly progressive at the same time, all the time. Indeed, core ideology and the drive for progress exist together in a visionary company like yin and yang of Chinese dualistic philosophy; each element enables, complements, and reinforces the other...”
When it comes to leadership and strategy, F. Scott Fitzgerald got it completely right when he wrote: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Our goal this fall is to not only become visionary leaders building visionary companies, but to also be able to work on multiple levels at the same time. If you need assistance in this process, please do not hesitate to call me. I would look forward to hearing from you.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257