Cooperation, where one plus one makes two, is very important. But collaboration is more important, where one plus one makes eleven.
The biggest overarching role of the visionary leader is to see where people need to be, and then find a way to take them there in a good and righteous way, and help them build fundamental capacity through transition. Transition is the acquisition of fresh new knowledge every day, shifting people, places, and things into and out of your life, and making sure that those people, places, and things are in the proper place at the proper time on the proper thing that we are working on together.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when we think we’ve got status quo, with years of study, understanding, and stewing in our own juices. Embedding social impact into your business model is the wave of the future. Peter Drucker talked about the social responsibility of the corporate world; fundamentally, that is to take problems and turn them into business opportunities, and to educate, inform, and empower people ultimately to do the same.
Visionary leadership requires looking not at the problem, but at what could be the opportunity, and figuring out how to help people do well while doing good. That can be done in almost every business model to a greater degree than it is being done today. There are some elements of that in the corporate world. But as we peel back the onion on that, as we grow as a people and a country, that has to become more prevalent and be brought to the surface. I am committed to showing my little world how to do that more effectively and better. Leadership is the only way it’s going to get done. It won’t be done by osmosis. It won’t get done because of scholarship, although scholarship is critically important. But it will be done by righteous and well-communicated powerful examples executed by good and righteous leaders.
Nothing ever will replace human contact in the cultivation, nurturing, and building of relationships and the understanding of the human psyche and the power of the human touch and love. I am a big fan of the effective utilization of social media, but it will never replace face-to-face, body-to-body, eye-to-eye contact, as we look into the windows of the soul. Conversation gives me a chance to model the behavior that I expect from people.
When people see how I comport myself, how I dress in a businesslike manner at a conference, how I frame my conversation, how I treat other people who are around me because I remain present 24/7, this is arm’s length mentoring. This is very important. Stay close to your customer. Stay close to those following. We are all visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory. That spreads virally. You are accessible. You are available.
That now becomes the standard for language and behavior, and the things we are doing, learning, and growing become the norm. That is very important when leading people. Part of the job of the leader is to bring people along, sometimes kicking, screaming, and crying.
One of my definitions of leadership is to be awake, alert, and dissatisfied at all times. We have come a long way, but we have much further to go. I am motivated by a positive anger directed toward positive change. Let me say that differently. You will never change that which you tolerate. You will only change when you get angry. People will not change when they see the light. People will change when they feel the heat. Every group must maximize its full human potential, and until such time, America will not reach its full human potential.
Do you want the people who love you, know you, respect you, follow you, learn from you, and get coached and mentored by you, to point to that as this is how you should comport and behave going forward with your life? Don’t be discouraged by your imperfections, mistakes, and the dumb stuff you may have done in certain passages of your life. It’s okay. I know I’m going to make mistakes and do some stupid things. But I press on. Hopefully I’ll learn from that and change.
Be open to everything, attached to nothing, and the best idea wins. Be open to change. Be open to new relationships. They will come in and out of your life, but understand that business is about relationships. Without relationships, you have no business. Without relationships, you have no business being in business. We have to spend quality time, maybe even more time, cultivating, nurturing, and building relationships at work, at home, and in the community. Most of us don’t spend enough time on our relationships.
Organizational Transitions for Long-Term Stability
Don’t wait until you are critically ill or dead to begin thinking about this. You are not going to be here forever. Think about it while you have a healthy and sharp state of mind; begin the search process as soon as possible. Once you plant the seed in your mind, once you say it or write it down, that permanently puts it in your subconscious mind, and the rest will reveal itself if you give it enough time. Begin looking, inquiring, and quietly taking notes on people in various positions.
Unveil the whole lineage board and various key executive positions. Tell your people that this is going to happen over time, and that ultimately all of the responsibilities you had will be transitioned and passed on to others you are working with or have been training slowly but surely. It’s critical. If you don’t do this, the business will be over, with years of work gone. That would be terrible.
Maintain your mission, vision, core values, and guiding principles. I wrote these when we started the company, but not on the day we started the company. It took us a little time to formulate them.
Core values: We value the following things: service to others as the foundation for success, learning and growing, the importance of family and legacy, spiritual growth and guidance, building wealth honorably, being a positive role model, a strong work ethic and loving what you do, the importance of our relationships, making the investment to succeed, measuring success by the generational wealth we transfer. Those are the things that we value.
Guiding principles: We will put God first. We will foster trust through honesty and integrity, give first and share always, keep promises to ourselves and to one another, treat everyone with respect, exceed expectations, practice listening as the first duty of love, use wealth as a force for good, think hard and work smart, practice humility as a strength of character, give thanks in and for all things, live healthy and authentic lives, and honor our work as a spiritual practice and as our gift. Finally, we will lead by serving.
Your core values should be principles on how people make decisions in your culture, and they should be modeled.
Two final thoughts: Chase excellence. Never chase money. Money has a strange way of finding excellence. When you choose excellence, you will never have to worry about competition. You will never have to wait in people’s lines. People will wait in line for you. It’s when you are average or mediocre that you will have to worry about competition because most of America is about average. If you are average, you are competing with everybody. You chase excellence by being committed to constant never-ending improvement and life-long learning.
Chart a good and righteous course. Stay that course. Then all that is due you will come to you.
Dr. George Fraser is Chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., a company he founded to lead a global networking movement, bringing together diverse human resources to increase opportunities for people of African descent, by drawing on the marketing and branding skills he learned in executive positions with Proctor & Gamble, United Way, and Ford Motor Co. A popular speaker and author, George’s inspiring talks on success principles, effective networking, wealth creation, business ethics, and valuing diversity are equally popular among corporate professionals and college students.
This article is reprinted from Issue #9 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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