The word Pontifex (Pontiff in English) is the term associated with the Pope (twitter account…err.. @pontifex, what else?).
I love this term for what it means. Historically this has been equal to High Priest in the Roman culture, a position occupied by patricians, never a plebeian, until 254 BCE according to my search. But the etymology, the origins of the word, is fascinating . It’s a combination of ‘pons’ (bridge) and ‘fex’ (maker or producer). So, literally, what it means is ‘one who builds bridges’
In my shopping list for new leaders, circa 2018, I want this in: bridge builder, broker between A and B, connecting ideas and people. OK, let’s stretch it: making impossible associations, declaring and seeking connection, not isolation, mastering broker-ship, unifier.
Most good pontifex-leaders I know seem to work in the background. They are not the usual suspects with the PowerPoint pack. In some cases that I know well, they are ‘the second’, not the first. The ones who facilitate the human encounters behind the Visible First
Social Network Analysis (SNA), as we practice it, finds these individuals sometimes hidden more or less somewhere in the organizational chart jungle. Semi invisible trees that the forest hide.
Whatever their position in the social network (which any organization is), what I have called in Homo Imitans our social GPS), bridge builders (pontifex) are a gem. A few of them solve an enormous amount of organizational dysfunctions.
Being at the very top, or close by, in the organization will make that broker-ship more visible and it’s bound to be imitated as role model of good leadership.
Yes, there are, of course, the bridge-builders and the bridge-burners, I know. But building is for me the quintessence of leadership. When many moons ago we in The Chalfont Project chose to call ourselves ‘Organization Architects’, I had more than one eyebrow raised around me, friends and colleagues. It was for a reason. Very simply, my obsession with ‘building’, as opposed to solving, fixing, changing, transforming or any other term in the Organizational Development Thesaurus.
I am not a natural networker, as in cocktail networking. And this characteristic in my list is not about this. I am not talking about the multiple and skillful networker, navigator in the jungle of weak and strong ties of ten new networ-kracies. These are by definition the new employees, the sailors in the new idea of ‘work’. Leadership goes beyond that. Perhaps from the visible tribal coctail campfires, to the less visibly connecting the unconnected key people.
Perhaps I could say that Bridge Building is ‘making it happen’ by closing the encounter of otherwise distant people. And distant may be next door office, or somebody in New Zealand, or tow people/clusters/units/organizations that did not know they could connect, or did not feel the need, or combinations.
Bring the bridge engineers in anyway.