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Alvin Toffler wrote in 1990:

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Anyone who believes that we’re just going to leap into some sort of glorious new age is very unrealistic … far-reaching turmoil can be expected, as individuals and institutions either adapt to, or resist, change.”

 

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So.

Leadership is a tricky thing.

It is walking a fine line of truth (grounded in what is real as well as ‘not lying’) and aspirational (giving people a glimpse of what they can be).

 

And, as with anything, this is about some functional practical things and emotional soul searching things.

 

Oh.

And connecting them.  It is the connection aspect that great leaders do well. But, ultimately, those leaders who figure it out end up leading high energy, high performance organizations.

And I tend to believe when you see an organization that ‘thinks small’ (or acts small) it is because their leaders do.

 

Regardless.

Just as I wrote recently about the fact we are in the ‘selling hope’ business I tend to believe great organizational cultures are also grounded on hope. Hope for being better.  Being a better person.  Being better at what you may do daily (even the smallest task). Being part of something that betters the world.

Great organizations, at their core, feed their people’s hope. And great leaders figure out a way of showing them that hope.

hope this wayIn practical terms and aspirational terms.

 

All that said … leads to me to some words that made me think about this.

Sam Meek. Sam was the CEO of of the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson in the 50’s/60’s. And the words below were delivered in a 1965 speech.

Within the following words there are little scraps of hope littered throughout for people to pick and choose from.

 

Scraps of the practical.

Scraps of aspirational.

Scraps of lessons that can be implemented daily in actions.

 

All littered on a ground of a solid attitude focused on the horizon.

 

These are words that make you feel good about being part of the organization and yet words to challenge every one to be better and work harder (“we are a permanently dissatisfied company”). I am not above stealing great words and reapplying them.  I use these words all the time and, frankly, I seek to work within organizations that like these words:

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When I talk of this company, I am not thinking just of a legal or business entity. I am using the word in the older sense, as in a company of scholars, as a company of adventurers, or a company of voyagers. I think our companionship partakes of all these things.

There had to be something special about this enterprise to attract the talented and venturesome people who have come together to exercise their considerable talents and to derive from it the things that make for full and satisfying life.

Our relationships are subtle and highly sensitive relationships ….

 

Our job must be to share authority without losing it …

The whole staff must have a proprietary feeling about the company’s work.

We are a permanently dissatisfied company and so far as I can see, we shall not run out of things to be dissatisfied about. I think our work, in most instances, is the best of its kind in the world – and yet not good enough. Not as good as it is going to be. There has not been and there should never be a year when it is not better than the year before.

Our audience is getting more demanding all the time – it is not a question of talking down to them. The problem, the opportunity, is to talk far enough up to them.

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Lastly.

I use one line from what Meeks said over and over again. I am not sure I have ever seen nor heard words from a leader that captured the essence of both functional practical and aspirational better than these:

 

“We must be dynamic for purposes bigger than ourselves.“

 

I admit.

I absolutely hate when an organization “thinks small.” That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t think practical but they should think about impact.  What kind of impact, or imprint, do they truly want to make.  And I don’t necessarily mean making people’s lives better.  I mean ‘doing good or great shit.’ Making an impact through what they do and who they are as an organization.  Impacting whatever world they affect. It doesn’t have to be global (like a JWT) but it can be local or even within their own circle of friends & business relationships.

Creating a great organization, a company of adventures, needs leaders who say, who mean, who live, these types of words.

old thoughts dream big

And all words that are said within a truth that it isn’t rhetoric but rather it is the soul of the organization.

 

Be dynamic.

 

Whew.

 

That alone is a great thought.

So … go be dynamic.

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Written by Bruce