Holding a top position in management in an organization carries with it a huge responsibility, and not just to the fiduciary requirements of the enterprise but to the very people who work in the organization. As management in authority one has a tremendous influence upon other people’s lives as well as their livelihood. As Howard Schultz recently expressed in an interview, “I realized I was responsible for something much larger than myself—people were relying on me.”
It’s About Choice
You see a leader’s choice is not whether to be an influence but rather what kind of influence to be. Accordingly creating the physical and psychological workspace that honors this fact, and embracing the associated responsibility, is critically important. Schultz said he set out “to build a company that had a set of values and guiding principles that were as important as the equity of the brand of the product we were selling.” This is nothing more and nothing less than the recognition that the intangible or the non-material aspects of an organization is critical to the viability of the enterprise.
As Howard Schultz recalled when he started his first coffee-bar business, “we had unbridled enthusiasm for an idea, and I think it covered up a lot of mistakes and it covered up a lot of naïveté.” Schultz’s experience illustrates the importance of meaning to people and in turn to the continued viability of the enterprise. In regard to this point, he acknowledges the importance of what is commonly referred to as the soft side of business: “If you don’t love what you’re doing with unbridled passion and enthusiasm, you’re not going to succeed when you hit obstacles.” What many don’t realize is that if it weren’t for the intangibles the tangible enterprise would not continue to exist. The lesson to remember here is that the material decline of an enterprise is most often preceded by the dispiriting of the people of the organization.
Soft is Hard
It turns out that what is called the soft side of management—which is all too often ignored—is in reality the very difficult responsibility of management. That said, we mustn’t be led to believe that management responsibility can be divided up and parceled out to different people with corresponding competencies. After all, when responsibility is divided in effect no one is responsible.
You see anyone can lead when everything is going one’s way. It is during times that challenge one’s authenticity that a person’s true measure of leadership becomes evident. In such times superficiality won’t suffice. Schultz says “it’s so difficult to succeed today in business. The ability for the team to function together, to support one another, to trust one another, to have cohesion an to also have creative tension is just mission-critical.” In this sense, C.E.O. is best thought of as the chief energy officer.