Strategic Market Leadership

Purpose or Personality

Tue, 2015-06-02 15:59 -- tomjonez


A number of months ago I was consulting with a non-profit organization that was floundering at a point of transition. Leadership was passive and the team was discouraged.  They called and scheduled a meeting and asked, “What should we do?”

In predictable fashion (for those who know me), I encouraged the founders to revisit their purpose; to answer the question, “Why?”

They listened with interest and we parted so they could ponder their options.  Several weeks later I received a call and we scheduled a time to meet again.

“We have great news,” they stated. “We hired a new leader and he is full of energy and things are really picking up.”

“Did you develop an answer to the question, ‘Why?’” I asked. “Can you articulate your purpose clearly? And if so, does everyone on the team agree with that statement?”

“No, we haven’t had time to address the question regarding our purpose. But we will get to it.  Right now the energy is high so we don’t need to do that.”

My analysis (short version):  They traded purpose for personality.

My analysis (longer version): They found a person with reasonable skill and personal charisma.  And as a result of ignoring the question regarding establishing their purpose (with clarity), the organization will instead be built around their new leader-person and that person’s particular skills and/or charm.  Yet when he leaves (and he will), the organization will be back at square one.  Because they have not established, clarified, stated, or clearly articulated their purpose - so that no matter who is on point to lead the team over the years, the organization will continue to build in a consistent and meaningful direction.  At present, they are building on the sand of personality instead of the solid ground of a clear purpose.

Does it really matter?  Maybe it is enough to trade-in the purpose of the organization for the personality of the team’s quarterback. It might work for a while. Maybe I am too committed to build things that endure over time.  Maybe the quick fix is good enough.

What do you think?