Leadership and organizational innovator Warren Bennis said, “The challenge of leadership is to create the social architecture where ideas, relationships, and adventure can flourish.” Here’s what I think he meant and how I see it working out in business.
Ideas are the basis for moving forward, for accomplishing new and exciting things. Creating an environment where creativity and development of intellectual capital flourish is key. It’s the ideas that talented people bring to the table when solving problems that propel your business forward. And those people do not need to be in your company. For example, when I launched The Pillar Seminary, I thought it would have only local classes. I knew that would hinder growth, but I couldn’t stand the thought of sacrificing the quality of the education, and I had never seen a distance education model that I believed was as good as local education. But when I traveled, people wanted to know how they could take classes from where they were. So I asked our team to develop a way of doing distance education that didn’t compromise quality. I thought I was giving them an impossible task but what they came up with led to international recognition for excellence in education.
Ever tried working in an environment where people don’t get along? It might make for a funny sitcom, but it’s horrible in real life, not to mention damaging to your business. Much has been written on team building, empowering staff, working together on teams, having great meetings, handling critique, and so on. In my opinion, these are all symptoms of relationship building. Sometimes people wonder why I’m so willing to spend so much company money eating out with our team members. The answer is simple: Relationships are built over food, and without good relationships, we don’t stand a chance of effectively carrying out our mission.
Adventure is where ideas and relationships find purpose. Adventure is about risk, and there is no effective business (or life, for that matter) without risk. The quest for adventure is where hope is turned into action. I’m obviously not talking about a rash or foolish risk, but we can’t live in the trap of waiting for full certainty to make bold decisions. A 2017 study by Botelho, Powell, Kincaid, and Wang, published in HBR, demonstrated that timely wrong decisions are more effective than delayed correct decisions. If business isn’t full of adventure, you’re doing it wrong, and you’ll lose your best talent.