In another context, I wrote about company cultures as having a glue. [The Company Global One Culture does not exist. But pretending that it does holds us together.]
The glue is sometimes, but not always, the history narrative, its own history, that is. History is accessible. In recalling it, we construct it. I said that ‘part of this narrative may be a ‘root narrative’ such as the founders, the struggles, the heroes, and the guys in a garage with a telephone’. Also that ‘the validity of this root narrative many not be terrible relevant; after all, entire tribes have been created and sustained under the root narrative of ancestors crossing rivers that did not exist, fighting wars that did not take place, or for years wandering deserts that nobody have touched.
Nationalisms know about constructing history. Independence movements often need the nationalism glue, and, in seeking it, they sometimes create their ‘against narratives’. Being against something, or somebody, is the glue. Often to the detriment of deciding what is that they are ‘pro’, if anything.
(By the way, the victim-oppressor, for example, is a good one, because it does not have to be true, it could be constructed. Victimism is good populism. At macro level, we see it everyday in the news. At micro level we see it in our teams, our daily routines and our hierarchical ‘us and they’).
What’s the role of the leader in the construction of the history of the organization? This is in part the legacy question. One that can be addressed from a purely egocentric perspective or not. What’s is my legacy? It’s a question that could be also put in terms of ‘what history am I creating?’.
It’s a powerful question because, although we can always dismiss these things as soft stuff, it forces us to define the building, the one that leaders are supposed to build. And left behind at some point, of course. But, don’t wait to the end and the retrospective. Others will judge. Construct the history as you go along. In trying, at least, you’ll have to see if what you do, see, write down makes sense or not, whether you are proud or not.
I have said many times that my favourite test is the ‘what will you tell the children?’ question [My 20 Rules of Leadership]
So, here we go. What’s the story? A war story, of winners and losers ? (‘Business as war’) A struggle story? Conquistadores? Terra Incognita? 3.5 increase of market share? Transforming lives? Phenomenal shareholder value? Top of the X list? OK, we could go for hours here.
Then, I am building this on my own? what’s the role of others? And how am I building it ? Ah, the how!
Don’t wait to the end. Build the picture. Write the script. Look at the mirror. Start again