The Leader’s Leader— by Jack Lannom

Jack LannomA powerful, purposeful culture, Part II – What follows is a continuing discussing on the whys of establishing and individual and organizational values’ system. For previous discussion please see previous issues of We have been discussing the reasons why great leaders work to create a shared knowledge of their organizations’ purpose and values.

The most important reason is that a shared sense of meaning provides true empowerment, because everyone in the organization is equipped to make good decisions.

When every member of the organization has knowledge of what is most important, what is less important, and what is not important at all, they are able to make good decisions—even when they don’t know all the specifics—that will accurately represent the company’s values to its customers. NULL Logos Leadership strikes a deathblow to the unwieldy, bureaucratic organizational structure that I identify as a vertical culture. In an unforgiving economic climate that requires organizations to react quickly to changing market conditions, successful companies will disdain hierarchical, vertical power and labor diligently to establish meaning-driven, horizontal cultures. Meaning empowers staffers to make quick, correct decisions at the point of customer contact. Far from feeling disconnected, insignificant, and fearful, front-line staffers are fully equipped to act and be responsive to customers’ needs.

Meaning-driven companies meet and exceed their customers’ expectations because employees respond quickly and confidently, and are perceived to truly care about their customers.

Quite simply, a philosophically empowered culture creates ownership. Everyone in the organization is a co-owner of the common philosophy. There is a shared organizational unity—a collective consciousness—that mandates and encourages excellence. I have met a great many managers who complain that people aren’t more responsible and responsive. “We want world-class service,” they say, but they haven’t created and modeled the kind of philosophy that elicits world-class behavior! People who work within such a system have clarity on the outcomes (“We want world-class excellence”) but no grasp of a philosophy that will produce, encourage, and protect those outcomes! This is not the kind of environment in which world-class service will thrive.

People cannot impart what they do not possess!

A few years ago, I talked to a dispirited young man who was the store manager for an independent pharmacy that had just opened for business. A customer came in to return a bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever that had inadvertently been sold within one month of the manufacturer’s expiration date. The young man apologized profusely for the mistake and immediately refunded the purchase price of the product. When word got back to the store’s owner, he growled at the manager that his pay would be docked for the amount of the refund! News of the incident spread among the staff like wildfire. The entire group had effectively been dis-empowered! There are far too many working environments like this one that repress—rather than release—potential.

In a philosophically empowered culture, the organizational logos provides each staffer with a template that guides his or her actions, rather than being driven by the power or personality of a particularly charismatic or authoritative leader.

The philosophy provides the basis for form and freedom in an organization. The logos is the formcode of conduct, the structure. Yet within that form there is absolute freedom! People are empowered to act in any way that is consistent with the established form. For example, the rules of driving to the right and obeying stop signs and traffic lights provide the form for driving an automobile. These governing guidelines keep us from killing each other in the streets. But within that form we enjoy the complete freedom to use the roads! Drivers can freely choose to motor to the corner drugstore or cruise across the country. In an organizational setting, staffers who are given the freedom to express their individuality within clearly defined boundaries have been empowered to act with total confidence and flexibility to meet each customer’s needs.

The goal of the Leader’s Leader is to instill the philosophy in each and every individual in the organization, so that everyone embodies the logos—they become “the philosophy with skin on.”

We have devoted several weeks to the all-important whys of establishing an individual and organizational values’ system. The next articles will provide practical instruction in how to go about doing that.


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