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The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership, Pillar VI: Leading

By Michael E. Rock, Ed.D. |



PILLAR VI: Leading
"Inspiring a Spirit of Enterprise"
(Part 6 of 7)


"But what does leadership mean in the digital economy where organizations are as decentralized and as networked as the Web itself? What does leadership mean when the pace of change is so rapid that decisions are made with minimal information? And what does leadership mean when the people in your organization both demand more independence and require more guidance?"

--"," Fast Company, June 19991

"Life is good only when it is magical and musical, a perfect timing and consent, and when we do not anatomize it. You must treat the days respectfully, you must be a day yourself, and not interrogate it like a college professor . . . You must hear the bird's song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Passages"2

"IT'S THE LEARNING SPEED of the slowest many,
not the learning speed of the brightest few,
that will set the PACE FOR YOUR COMPANY"

-- "Report From the Future," Fast Company, June 19993

One mouse click away. If you decide there's something
you don't like about a company in the financial services industry,
that's as far as you need to go to get to the competition.

- Stephen Pozgaj, a senior vice-president and
CIO with Mackenzie Financial Corp.4

Leadership in the new economy. It leaves many people's heads spinning. Can the essence of what we have thought was leadership even hold today? How many of us think of leadership as "one" charismatic person and "many" followers? How many of us think of leadership as the person who is "the boss," the one who makes all the decisions?

In the new thinking which is really ancient, in the historical sense leadership is more like a "field" in the chaos or complexity mathematical sense. Leadership in this sense is more intuitive, an intense zone of invisible radiating energy. People who are able to create that sense of leadership leave us with the feeling that "there is something very attractive about what they do or who they are."

Leaders, therefore, create a field of vision. They constellate a visionary activity within those around them. Their field and presence draws people toward every deeper, wider and more profound experiences of this vision.

Leadership, therefore, is very much akin to what writers of spiritual classics have written about for centuries. How is it that so many people over the centuries have "left everything" and followed what they believed was the "Master"? In some cases, like Jim Jones and the 900+ people who committed suicide on his behalf, this Master created a field of attractive invisible evil; others, however, like Buddha and Christ, invited their "followers" into a profound experience of living and transformation.

There was a saying in the 1960s that went like this: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" At first sight this might seem like a blasphemous saying, but on deeper reflection, it reminds us that true humanism is "an inside out job." No one can self-actualize for you. Each of us has our own personal journey that no one else can appropriate.

Today leadership is more about "managing complexity," "managing the invisibles," "managing the context," "managing onself." André, in My Dinner with André, remarks: You see, I keep thinking we need a new language, a language of the heart ... some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that is the poetry of the dancing bee, that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language we're going to have to learn how you go through a looking glass into another kind of perception, in which you have that sense of being united to all things, and suddenly you understand everything.5

"Blessed is he that has ears to hear and eyes to see."

Peter F. Drucker, in a recent Harvard Business Review article on "Managing Oneself,"6 writes:

Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution. And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

In The 7 Pillars we write about a time when people built soaring cathedrals to honour the spirit that dwelt within them. As within, so without. Today, when we look about our society, what holds our rapt attention? Metaphorically, what "soaring cathedrals" draw us into their vision? What is the essence of leadership that calls us to honour ourselves and those around us to ever greater and deeper dimensions of growth?

Today, it seems, the "new cathedral" or "church" is the mall. How can that image and "horizontal" experience sustain us? We cannot find growth and a future through acquisitiveness. Perhaps we get blind sided by the calls of Bay Street and Wall Street that permit our pain to hide behind money as we worship the contemporary god of success and productivity. In centuries past, "the universe was filled with meaning, consciousness and intent, a vast and beautiful cathedral of interdependent hierarchies and we were at the centre of it, in both a physical and metaphorical sense."7

"And when we think we
lead we are most lead."

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

It was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, M.D. who spoke about the ego - the "I" that is each of us - as a small ship on the huge ocean of the unconscious. It is hubris - or unwarranted pride - that tricks us into believing that our ego is everything. However, we know from experience that the ocean can be quite unsettling - witness the outpouring of emotion around the movie Titanic.

How about a different way of thinking? How about thinking "LeaderSHIP"?

Think of it as an archetypal concept. The vessel. Your thinking. Your crew's destiny. How are you going to ride the wave? How are you going to steer (lead), not row (manage)?

Today many organizations are rowing against the tide, not steering with the new current. They are still managing, not "leadering."8

J.P. Bryan, formerly of Gulf Canada and Torch Energy Advisors Inc., Houston, Texas, remarked one time, "The suggestion that you need to be managed should be an insult."9 Peter Block, author of Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest, argues that no one should be paid for planning, organizing, directing, or controlling anyone.10 You will recall that these have long been touted as the traditional management skills!

Listed below are some key qualities that Bryan describes vis-á-vis a visionary leader.

  • The leader must be a good listener.
  • The leader should encourage criticism but not disrespect.
  • The leader should celebrate employees' efforts.
  • The leader must do what is right rather than what is popular.
  • The leader must be courageous and a risk taker.
  • The leader must be open to change.
  • The leader must change to be open.
  • The leader must exhibit humility and empathy.
  • The leader must serve and defend.
  • The leader must aspire to do better.
  • A leader must be accountable to a "higher authority" namely, God.

"Before the gates of Excellence
the high gods have placed sweat."

Hesiod, 8th. Century B.C.

QUESTION: "Does Your Organization Honour a Spirit of Enterprise?"

Let's do an organizational check. Think of the organization you work in. Estimate fairly and honestly your answer to the following seven (7) questions. Use the scale below to make your choice: 1 = To a very little extent
2 = To a little extent
3 = To some extent
4 = To a great extent
5 = To a very great extent
The organization I work for ...

Item No. Item My Score
Demonstrates obvious leadership qualities.  
"Grows" champions.  
Brings out the best in people.  
Promotes shared growth, prosperity, and well-being.  
Has leaders who inspire trust, originality, and challenge.  
Nurtures a real spirit of enterprise in the workplace.  
Inspires its employees to meet their goals.  


If you scored 32-35:  You value leading in your organization.
If you scored 28-31:  You're doing all right, but need to improve.
If you scored 25-27:  You definitely need to take stock right now.
If you scored 0-24:  You are, or will be, in trouble.

The Leadership Value Path (LVP)

True leadership today builds a leadership value path. That's the way my friend, colleague, and co-author Dr. Michael Cox and I wrote about leadership in The 7 Pillars.

As well, leadership, says Gary Robertson, Director of Industrial Relations for Kvaerner Constructors Ltd., a division of Kvaerner International (, the world's largest engineering/construction corporation, is not about "outside going in."11

I could hardly agree more. Leadership is "inside going out."

It's what matters on the inside that is crucial to the leadership value path since it is the inner person and his/her leadership value presence that creates and breathes spirit into an enterprise. A leadership value presence inspires a future worth going to. A leadership value presence creates hope and passion for that future.

Over the last three hundred years we have gradually become so used to the split between mind and body that we no longer question our schizophrenic vision of reality. "Business schizophrenia" has created innumerable silos: the marketing department which doesn't communicate with the accounting department; workers v. managers; results v. passion, etc. In the 1990s we are reaping the terrible cost of these splits. The new economy demands a holistic approach to living and working.

Leadership is no different. True leaders, in creating a leadership value presence, even without knowing or acknowledging it, live the modern physicist's understanding of the world: that all of life is interconnected, so much so that physicists are able to show that an experiment is influenced by the experimenter! Taking this research into leadership thinking, we find tremendous support for my claim that a leadership value presence is not only something that good leaders "have." Rather, a leadership value presence is who good leaders "are."

For two thousand years, following Plato and the Neoplatonists, right into the Middle Ages, people never struggled with realizing that reality was the spiritual (or soul) interrelationship of human consciousness and the physical world around them. As a matter of fact, reality was the fruit of that interrelationship. Without this dynamic interplay and transaction of human consciousness and the material world, reality was still undifferentiated. In the case study below, noted leadership professor and thinker, Warren Bennis, Ph.D., says that a leader's job is to define reality. That's pure Greek thinking. The Greeks understood that the material world exists and comes into existence through the interaction of people's senses and minds (their consciousness) with the undifferentiated particles and energies that "make up" the material world.

What visionary leaders do, however,
is craft a compelling vision that
others find attractive
and wholesome. Francis of Assisi once
said, "Preach the gospel wherever
you go if necessary, use words."
True Leadership.

Each of us defines reality in our own way. That is the human project.

The Greeks, as Wade Rowland in Ockham's Razor points out, accepted that "intellectual comprehension was a function of the soul and it was therefore important to regulate the kinds of things that occupied one's interests. Because the soul participated or, in a sense, mingled with the object perceived, it was affected and shaped in the transaction."12 As Rowland remarks, medieval people would never have trouble with what we call "virtual reality" since all reality was understood by them to be "virtual." They would have laughed hearing us describe this "new invention," or "new idea" called virtual reality.

Thus, since visionary leaders are healthy "inside out," they create and craft an inspiring field of possibilities, human empowerment, and a future worth going to.

Case Interview: "Leadership as an Organizing Principle"

Leadership author Warren Bennis speaks of four qualities the modern leader must inspire or exemplify:
  • Purpose: a strong determination to achieve a goal -- a conviction, a passion, even a skewed distortion of reality that focuses on a particular point of view. In short, visionary leaders define reality so that it has meaning and purpose.

  • Trust: the social glue that keeps an organization cohesive and committed. This is a very difficult thing to do with a 20% "churn factor" (employees in transition through layoffs, downsizings, or straight unemployment). In addition, there are the five "Cs" or qualities necessary for trust: competence, constancy, caring, candour, and congruity (a sense of authenticity, being alive and coherent to yourself). Richard Sennett, a distinguished academic who teaches at New York University and the London School of Economics, in an interview in the course of writing his latest book, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, said that he

    worries that upheaval in companies has set workers' inner lives adrift. "How do we decide what is of lasting value in ourselves in a society which is impatient, which focuses on the immediate moment?" he asks. "You can't imagine how stupid I feel when I talk to my kids about commitment. It's an abstract virtue to them.13

  • Optimism: a sense of hope, that obstacles can be overcome, that adversity will be met. In my series of articles on emotional intelligence posted at the CanadaOne site - the EQ-i articles14 - I show how optimism is one of the scientific factors that makes up emotional intelligence. Leaders who have optimism believe realistically they will achieve their goals. As a matter of facts, while their goals may be set up as "stretch" goals, they are also attainable.

  • Action: a bias to action, to commit, to act with imperfect information, the capacity to convert purpose and vision into action. Bennis ends up the interview by saying that a banker told him once that his philosophy of management was "a dream with a deadline." 15

Why is all this discussion about social capital so important?

Because leadership is about designing and building the social architecture that is needed to leverage today's essential intellectual capital. As soon as we start discussing social capital, we are moving directly into the area of EQ and emotional intelligence. As I like to say, "IQ tells you what you can do, EQ tells you what you will do." According to Bennis,

most corporate leaders ... realize the only way they can leverage intellectual capital is through these knowledge workers. Leaders who can release the brain power of their staff, who can energize the know-how and creativity of their work force, are the only ones who can be sure to be in the phone book by 2001. The key to competitive advantage in the coming years will be top leadership's ability to create the social architecture that can generate intellectual capital.

The question leaders need to answer today is: "How can I harness and capture the emotional power of my entire workforce?" Without that energy for the enterprise - personal or corporate - intellectual capital simply walks out the door. Bennis points out that a recent Conference Board study shows that almost 60% of the companies surveyed worldwide claim that they do not have the leaders capable of successfully guiding their organizations into the 21st century!

Does this kind of effective leadership pay off?

Or, to state the issue a different way, does ROIR (Return-on-Integrity-in-Relationships) pay off? Bennis points out that a recent study by Accenture has shown that "well led" companies had a 900% increase in their stock price compared with a 78% increase for the others! Further, Bennis states that a 10-per-cent increase in spending on training leads to more than twice the productivity gain as does a comparable increase in capital. The real issue, he says, is, "How do you release the brainpower of the people in the organization?"16 I would take that sentiment a step further and say, "How do you release the creative power of the human person?"

What would a visionary leadership charter of values require to be successful?17

Faith in a higher vision

Mastery in competence

Courage in shared vision

Trust in growing ideas

Spirit in enterprise

Service in leading

Integrity in relationships

Prophet in profit

Wisdom in thinking

Humility in purpose

For a summary of The 7 Pillars, go to Harcourt Brace & Company Canada's Website: or call 1-800 387-7278.

The 7 Pillars of Visionary Leadership: Introduction

PILLAR I: Visioning

PILLAR II: Mapping

PILLAR III: Journeying

PILLAR IV: Learning

PILLAR V: Mentoring

PILLAR VI: Leading


Other articles by Michael Rock:

The 90% Factor: EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and the New Workplace
The Right Stuff (Part 1 of 5)
Take Charge -- of Yourself! (Part 2 of 5)
I Count -- I Count You! (Part 3 of 5)
Stress EQ and Unstress You! (Part 4 of 5)
It's All in How You See It! (Part 5 of 5)

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