The Foundation of Leadership
While visiting this renowned city of the Inca Empire last week, I found myself comparing the meticulous attention to the “natural” fit of the rocks and stones with the recurring re-engineering and re-organizing I encounter week after week in large business enterprises. Even the most agile leadership teams are struggling to find enduring stability in an environment of continuing economic turmoil.
The stone foundations of Machu Picchu were built and shaped to fit in place without any mortar or joints. Some stones were used in their natural state with little or no alteration. The natural landscape was optimized for purposes of sustainability. Furthermore, the entire complex is situated in alignment with the sun, the moon, and the stars. At the seasonal equinoxes, natural light is framed and focused by openings designed to cast bright beams in otherwise dark places.
A client recently asked me, “What are the foundations of leadership, Steve ?” Without much hesitation I responded, “passion and purpose”. I could have given a short list of critical leadership competencies or core leadership skills. But I did not.
More than ever today we need leaders who build foundations that are sustainable, aligned with the Laws of the Universe. We need to evaluate how we strive to survive by using our own versions of “mortar and bricks” – the latest org re-design, or the newest IT system, or the most recent effort at process improvement. Do we really need all that? Do those efforts deter us from dealing with more fundamental questions? The challenge is to establish an enduring relationship to one another and a cause greater than ourselves which creates value rather than depletes it. We need better alignment with the Universe. We need to assess our foundational work.
I may be idealizing what the Incas built. And how they did it. (How DID they do it?!) But the foundations remain on the mountain top. How do you answer the question: What are the foundations of leadership?