Where is home? Ask this question to an Irishman or Irish woman. Even if they have been living abroad for 20 years, home is Ireland, not New York, not Liverpool, not Chicago, not Paris. If an Irishman tells you ‘I am going home next week’ he does not mean downtown Brooklyn or South Side Chicago. It means an airport heading for Shannon or Dublin.
Maybe it is the Celtic attachment to place and space. An attachment that is in the mind, and the mind comes with you wherever you go. The Celtic imagination, humanity’s greatest, knew.
So, where is home in the global village? Other than for an Irishman, that is. Globalisation, it seems, equalises humanity. Flat, very flat. (As a joke, I think that The World is Flat, a book by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, should have been written by the CEO of Ikea).
Global leadership? What is it? A set of universal principles, behaviours and style that can work across the world? OK, it could be possible to map them and develop them. And indeed there are very good people working in that direction.
But where is home? Is it on the Facebook pages? Wherever my smartphone is? Family! Oh! I forgot! Family. Wait a minute, they are also on Facebook, and now Snapchat, and Instagram.
Perhaps the question is where is the longing? The belonging? A place? A Space? A group? Where some people are? Biblical Ruth said it in moving words: ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God’. That was Facebook-free, pre-globalisation, a definition of love.
Maybe, actually, we have homes, in plural. That is, little homes that may be more or less connected with the Big Belonging Home. These are places of voluntary belonging, of engagement, perhaps of enhancement of the self. They are called organizations, or companies, where we attach ourselves for an enormous amount of time in our lives. Physically, psychologically and to the server.
That ‘attachment to people and place’ does not make the company a family. I think this is a flawed concept. Companies have CEOs and CFOs; families have parents. But if we get this natural human attachment to place and people right, inside an organization, it is likely that the engagement, however you describe it (as long as it is not a score in a survey) will be high. Oh! my ‘company of volunteers’!
For me it is a sign of good leadership, global or local, to provide these little homes, to create those ‘home effects’. I have had the privilege of working, indirectly, with some deprived kids in the US who have found ‘home’ in the school, or even in the safety and welcoming of a yellow school bus. Attachment to space, place and people, even on wheels, that is.
Imagine a workforce that says ‘I want to go home’. And, Irishmen aside, they mean my place of work. Imagine that, if you can. And then you can throw into the bin all the manuals on Employee Engagement.
And write your own one.
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