For peak leadership performance it is imperative that the CEO brings perspective, independent thinking and qualitative experience into a synthetic whole.
Perspective means a vantage point above the system which includes the strategic environment as well as the company and its internal systems; independent thinking means the ability to connect the dots others can’t. Once these are in place we can talk about qualitative experience as opposed to one that is largely based on routine.
It’s easy to see that there is a hierarchical relationship between the qualities of perspective, thinking and experience in that there is no experience without independent thinking and vertical perspective and there is no independent thinking without vertical perspective. Perspective is defined by world views.
Today there is a uniform world view represented by the majority, which essentially makes independent thinking impossible and churns out almost exclusively quantitative experiences.
This uniform world view gave birth to the conventional career path: rise from the bottom to the top. The prerequisite for entering this path is to have the same world view, in the course of “rising” any remaining trace of independent thinking is liquidated and routine is pervasive even in the highest echelons of “leadership”.
I am only aware of one exception: entrepreneurship when the founder launches, builds, aligns and sets limits(!) to the organization based on an authentic innate vision.
If there is any compromise on any of the main principles, leadership is lost.
Also: as we can see, vertical perspective, independent thinking and qualitative experience are closely related with perspective/world view being the foundation.
This means for example that if the proverbial visionary founder/ceo has built up a successful company, he’ll have to recognize the exact point in time when he has to stop growth (set limits). If growth continues “indefinitely”, it means that his perspective has been compromised: it has been adjusted to purely quantitative considerations; we can no longer talk about leadership.
Radical, eh?! A child can draw the conclusions. So what’s the point in making this point?
Simple: to provide perspective.
With the right perspective acknowledged and “internalized” qualitative elements maybe introduced even into public companies, not to mention startups or mid sized businesses… who knows: some businesses may take leadership positions, going against the mass.
Even one drop of quality makes a huge difference.
For simplicity’s stake let’s look at industries as systems.
The good student type perceives the system as something bigger than himself. The system demands loyalty and respect from them. The system can’t be ruled; ever; not in a lifetime. After a while a student becomes a teacher or a user of the system, representing this belief. Sometimes some people come and challenge their beliefs about the system and they will probably comply as long as these innovations make sense – within the system.
The bad student type also perceives the system as something bigger than himself; something that can’t be ruled; ever. This one will always struggle to understand the mechanics of the system, won’t be able to use it to his benefit and chances are that he’ll either leave the system or finds a component within the system where he can be a good student.
Then there’s the type that never was a student. This one perceives any (number of) system as pure potential with no significance whatsoever, as mere tools that he can use, change, re-define or replace with brand new ones he himself created, according to his purpose and will.
The key is harmony and awareness: find your place and let others be what they are! Be nice, no fighting!
If you’re a bad student, you’re probably in the wrong system: find a new one or find your specialty and focus.
If you’re a good student, learn and teach but don’t forget: not everybody is a student: manage your expectations towards others.
If you’re not a student, focus on purpose and create, change, re-define, replace or use accordingly; but no matter what everybody’s telling you, don’t try to be a a student or a specialist!
Tons of challenges for all 3 types.
A general once summed it up very succinctly (approximate quote):
” if I set a heroic task, heroic men come forth; if I promise benefits and convenience, the street hustler types come forth”.
That’s pretty much it.
I find it fascinating to observe how this works not only as a principle of attraction but also as a principle of repulsion:
If we set circumstances for the Right thing (which transcends individual interests), the small man flees; it often triggers bodily reactions in them like nausea, sweating, stuttering, etc.
Setting the circumstance is sometimes as easy as exhibiting the appropriate style:
When interviewing people in context of building leadership teams it’s educational to see what happens when one gives them the royal treatment (treating them as royalties; btw. this should always be the case).
The royal treatment may trigger humbleness and respect or arrogance and cynicism: it polarizes. People who are aligned to principles have a sense of style that goes beyond the domain of mere practicality; those who aren’t, can’t be lifted from the practical domain and thus they constantly contradict themselves.
The point is of course that similarities attract each other. To be more accurate, we should say: a given principle triggers the emergence of a given set of characteristics, a given style, certain type of people.
Without capturing the principle (NOT values!!!) there is chaos. As step zero, all fashionable domains must be approached from this angle, including
- innovation and creativity
- leadership and management
- organization (including anything “social”)
- identity (including positioning)
As we go from south to north we come across with wine nations, beer nations and of course spirit nations. Wine consumption however is growing globally, including in beer and spirit nations and as a result of this the wine selection is getting wider in all major super and hypermarkets.
People buy cheap wine, expensive wine and wine in between. Wine lovers are well educated: they pronounce merlot, savignon, pinot appropriately, they are aware what are the native grapes in particular regions; some of them are even aware of what years were the best in which regions; so wine buyers are clear on the price value of a particular bottle of wine.
They perceive wine on sale to be just as irresistible as Nike shoes, LV bags or other products on sale. More or less this is the case when people are browsing at the wine section of Tesco, Lidle, Loblaws or other denominations.
Wine has become a product, like sneakers, shaving blades, hilti rock-drill and other practical products. The fields of applications are also well defined:
- I am going somewhere, gotta bring something
- Someone’s coming, gotta have something
- for movies
- for dinner
- everybody’s favourite: intimate times
- for conversations
- for forgetting, for celebrating
- for parties
- for closing business deals
- etc. etc. etc.
By “gaining” function, wine has degraded to the level of consumer’s goods. Since the mass views decline as progress, I should probably say: wine has horribile dictu advanced to the consumers’ goods category.
This has not always been like this. Like everything that has anything to do with luxury, wine is not “goods” or product. The “luxury goods” category from this point of view is an oxymoron.
According to the definition I propose: luxury is a field that has no practical considerations; to put it differently: it’s not bound by (practical, inferior) conditions; we could also say: it’s independent, which is in analogy with superiority.
When looked at from below, the superior is always luxurious. It’s likely that the expression “luxus” originates from “below”, since luxus, as a “surplus” may only be perceived as such from an inferior position; from a superior position this “extra” is integral, natural.
One who surrounds himself with luxury goods while he builds a career, “serves” clients, etc. and perhaps makes such statements like he likes luxury or that he leads a luxurious lifestyle, is in a grave contradiction. This is true also when one backs up such a statement with something like:
I only buy Mercedes because I can relate to the philosophy of striving for perfection. Coming up with ideas for this may occasionally birth very funny statements, which however are meant dead seriously at the time:
- I am a princess so I deserve royal treatment: the only brand that is appropriate for this is prada, gucci, etc.
- “a BMW is like a predator in a suit (someone with more imagination may go as far as specifying: like a cheetah, a panther or a lion), EXACTLY LIKE ME!”
It’s typical of the sometimes downright stupid “business thinking” that they seriously ask questions like if you were a car, what brand would you be; or which brand expresses your working/leadership/personality type the most.
To summarize before we move on: the luxury industry is the mass’ perception about the style elements of superiority.
Back to wine.
Wine is not a product. It’s also obvious that it didn’t become from “below” so to speak. It was not an highly observant ape man who accidentally started to grow grape, and then accidentally left it to ferment, etc. I don’t want to continue because it wouldn’t be worthy of applying inferior speculations (how it was discovered, “invented”, etc.) to things like wine.
Wine was not invented, it is a natural phenomena. Conceptually, in relations to certain principles, wine had always existed even before its first manifestation. If certain conditions are present on the manifest plane, wine will also appear.
The creation of conditions for its manifestation used to be a ritual, whereby one “plays” with time from a “position” (of creation) “above” or “before” time, just like in metallurgy, where man eliminates time as it relates to the ore in earth thereby accelerating the manifestation of the potentially existing metal (see Eliade: Forgerons at alchimistes)
To elaborate on the ritual of bringing the wine from potentialities to actuality is not relevant here. Much more interesting is the ritual of knowing the wine through tasting it (by no means CONSUMING it).
The birthplace wine is obviously very important; grapes native to a particular region are prerequisites for (near) perfect wine, since it is not by blind chance that a particular grape is native to a particular region. Shiraz from Australia maybe without doubt great, but by no means may it become perfect…and this is true even if we consider that after all of the shiraz plants died out in France, now the oldest shiraz grapevines are supposed to be in Australia.
Today of course this kind of “geo mixing” is pervasive and it is driven mostly by marketing. “Shiraz has been incredibly hot this year”. “Last year the Australians made a killing in the “shiraz-merlot” segment, etc. …and the marketing guys are thinking (or not): why is cabernet-shiraz more popular than shiraz merlot?
When it comes to the masses there’s nothing to think about: the stronger the taste the more popular the wine. The more unsophisticated the (person’s) taste, the stronger the taste (of wine) must be.
This is probably the foundation of the popularity of Chinese fast food as well.
To keep it short, just the bottom line:
The basic rules of tasting wine:
- get to know the wine where it appears: go there
- before getting to know the wine more intimately, explore the area, talk to the locals, taste their food with their own regional spices, try their water, notice the smell of air, etc.
- it is incredibly important that you get introduced to the wine by the grower personally, in the cellar, preferably straight from the barrel; if he’d good, he’ll tell you about his family, the history of the land and the cellar and many other crucial information.
All these are part of the conditions facilitating manifestation so they are incredibly important from the point of view of getting to know the wine appropriately.
It is easy to see that the grower is not introducing a product.
It’s about a principle thing so about something that transcends both the grower, the guest and the wine; it integrates the grower, the wine (together with the area, the people there, local food, drinks, history, etc.) and the guest (pilgrim) into an indivisible unity the centre of which is perfection that in this particular moment manifests itself as wine.
An uplifting experience.
Of course after such an introduction you bring home a couple of bottles. It’s important to note that the price given by the grower is symbolical and not subject to negotiation. The indicated price maybe influenced by to what degree the feeling of indivisible unity has been actualized during the introduction. Sympathy may play a role, but not necessarily. The price must be accepted.
When one opens the wine at home he gets only a pale reflection of the original experience; in a way he just relives the memory; but this pale, reflective memory is still incomparably better than picking up a bottle at tesco (loblaws, whatever); the only thing we can learn from such a wine is aromas, smell, %’s, a year that is nothing more than a number, etc. This means that we actually don’t know the wine we’re drinking and our relationship with it is purely physical.
Since the nature of wine is contrary to that of business, the wine business corrupts wine. The only way of preventing the inevitable decline, is that we at the very least maintain personal contact with select growers and since trade is impossible to eliminate, we conduct wine trade in a fashion that corresponds with the nature of wine.
Giving the expected answer is a billion dollar industry.
The methodologies are the same, the terminologies are the same, the books are the same and even the packaging is the same.
The rules are set not only for the what but also for the how: presentations, keynote speaches, interviews, meetings: all performed the same way; and I do mean: absolutely the same way, by seemingly identical people, working the stage identically, speaking identically, using the same tools (intonations, emphasis, silence, etc, etc. etc.), and even looking the same. The how is an industry by itself, teaching how the same content should be presented (the same way).
All this is even consumed the same way. The perception-reflex jerks the same way to the same anomalies, producing the same response to the same stimuli. The rules are crystal clear. New trends, new paradigms appear every year together with new “thinker-celebrities”, but none of them cross the borders of the expected.
The herd is strong, the herd is big and the herd is open minded towards variations, as long as they come from inside, from within the herd.
The herd is slow. It is incapable of speed. It is dreaming about speed and it NLPs itself to an illusion of speed, but it is incredibly slow; mentally!
The fast movers in the herd are the guys who come up with such revolutionary messages as: “listen to your customers!” Or the more “advanced” ones: “do you have a social media strategy?” “Generation Y is very different from generation X.” The fastest ones may even add: “Have you thought about this?” “Young kids consume media very differently from you!!!” The list goes on.
The herd is not exeptional. It is dreaming about being exceptional and in this dream anything is possible, including that being exceptional is a question of hiring others from the herd to show them how to.
The herd can’t answer ultimate questions.
No matter what industry, or business area, the question is simple:
what do you want?
Only exceptional people give exceptional answers to this question. These exceptional people seek out others who not only “get it”, but also bring something substantially more to the table: an element of surprise that injects such a dose of adrenalin to those ready for it, that it drives them for years.
It’s easy to see how the mere proximity of the elite makes the herd very very nervous on the one hand, or very very indifferent, sometimes flat-out ignorant on the other.
And now the nice part: although the probability is very low, once in a while the constellation is such, that the elite do find each other and conspire to accomplish great things.
The question of elitism in business is an interesting one. Interesting because it’s paradoxical, to say the least. The only reason why we don’t say that the term business elite is an oxymoron is because there is still room -although rapidly shrinking- for the elite…also in business.
The purpose of business is profit. Profit provides context for the behavior for all players in a business organization. Ultimately the drive for profit determines the decisions concerning both resources and people. To put it in a different light, profit replaced principle as the foundation of one’s actions (be it mental, emotional or physical).
It not difficult to see that profit is fundamentally a quantitative factor. Since quality never originates from quantity, qualitative factors like leadership and value have been “adjusted” to the business setting, which resulted in absurd beliefs like “everybody is a leader”, which is essentially the almost open denial of leadership itself. It would come as absolutely no surprise if the next school of “management thought” openly propagated that leadership doesn’t even exist, and tried to prove from an increasingly inferior context, that it actually never existed.
Leadership is intrinsically elitist. It is not born out of profit driven initiatives.
- everybody recognizes the elite; in a business setting however the general attitude towards them is hostility. The foundation of the behavior of members of the elite is respect
- from the point of view of profit driven players the context that determines behavior is money in its various forms, including revenue, compensation, fees, cost, profit etc.
- from the point of view of the elite money is symbolical. It symbolizes value in its various forms, be it quality time, focused attention, differentiation. The behavior itself is not dependent on monetary considerations, the purpose is not the creation of profit.
With the exception of design, domains of mass production leave little room for elitism and value. Heute Cotoure in fashion, wine or other noble drink creation, food creation, hand made objects etc. maybe the only area in the product domain where elitism could still persist (although these “objects” no longer maybe considered as products in the conventional sense) as long as it doesn’t comply with dominant tendencies that are typically referred to as fashion or fashionable.
If design stays above fashion, it is timeless and such timelessness reflects the style elements of superiority. This is the solution to the “break-through paradox”, and the true foundation of luxury “brands” (the term luxury brand of course is an oxymoron, since luxury means unconditioned, thus superior; brands are driven by the mass, the most conditioned thus inferior factor of all).
In the service domain superiority comes from the vantage point above best practices, thus from an inferior point of view it is always dangerous; it is not dangerous because of the vantage point itself, since the higher doesn’t exclude the lower (meaning that best practices are well known, and better understood by the elite than those who just learned them and use them); the danger comes from the integrity of the elite in that they don’t sacrifice the superior for the sake of the inferior.
When members of the elite -horribile dictu - deal with each other, be it in the service or the product domain, value gets appreciated, which is reflected in the price that is agreed upon – in a way given- and not negotiated.
Trying to “talk down” the price of an elite service or product is an inferior effort.
This can’t be avoided, given that the inferior can’t comprehend the domain of the superior (if it could it would not be inferior), thus it can’t appreciate it.
In the business domain leadership may only come from the elite and it is crucial that the elite maintains relationships with each other in order to maintain the reality of leadership, values and in the end, quality.