Here are two truths about human beings.
1. We are made to flourish in relationships.
2. We are made to work.
Both of these are essential to being truly human and fully alive. This helps us understand why loneliness and unemployment are so destructive. One of the things which I have learned as I have lived and worked in a variety of countries and cultures is that we very often fail to integrate relationships and work in our organisations in healthy ways. Typically what I see in places such as Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, is that we prioritise work over relationships. We see this reflected in the rise of understanding of ourselves as ‘homo economicus’ - who and what we are is reduced to our economic worth, the extent to which we contribute to growth in the GDP of our country.
To the extent that what really matters is the wealth creation that results from our work, we start to view people as means to this end. We use people to make money. One of the challenges that this presents is that this strategy can be very, very lucrative. We can make a lot of money whilst we treat people as means to an end.
However, it is one of my central convictions that truly great leaders are able to rise to the challenge of building organisations and businesses that simultaneously create wealth through work, and also enable people to flourish in relationships. The key is to design our organisations, and equip our people, so that we do good work, together. Our workplaces need to become environments where we can experience good, healthy relationships while generating a profit for shareholders.
Lest this seem too ‘soft’ and ‘leftish utopian dreaming’ it also seems to me that organisations that enable workers to flourish as persons-in-relationship will have a significant long-term advantage over organisations that use and diminish people. People treated well are profitable people.
The great thing about leading an organisation is that we get to lead entities that enable people to flourish by doing good work in good relationships. What a privilege. What a responsibility.
Can I help you as a leader step up to this challenge?