September 25, 2009

The Window and the Mirror and Enterprise Architecture

I came across some interesting leadership lessons that can be helpful to enterprise architect leaders in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.

At the most basic level, Collins says that a “level 5” executive or great leader is a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." “Level 5 leaders channel their ego away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company…their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”

Furthermore, level 5 great leaders differ from good leaders in terms of “the window and the mirror.”
  • Great leaders—“look out the window to attribute success to factors outside themselves, [and] when things go poorly, they look in the mirror and blame themselves.”
  • Good (non-great) leaders—“look in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results.”

Interestingly enough, many leaders attributed their company’s success to “good luck” and failures to “bad luck”. Collins writes: “Luck. What an odd factor to talk about. Yet, the good-to-great executives talked a lot about luck in our interviews. This doesn’t sound like Harvard or Yale MBAs talking does it?

Collins comments on this bizarre and repeated reference to luck and states: “We were at first puzzled by this emphasis on good luck. After all, we found no evidence that the good-to-great companies were blessed with more good luck than the comparison companies.”

What puzzles me is not only the lack of attribution for company success to global factors, general market conditions, competitive advantage, talented leadership, great architecture, astute planning, sound governance, great products/services, creative marketing, or amazing employees, but also that there is no mention or recognition in the study of good-to-great leaders in the benevolence from the Almighty G-d, and no apparent gratitude shown for their companies’ success. Instead, it's all about their personal brilliance or general good luck.

Where is G-d in the leaders' calculus for business success?

It seems that the same good-to-great leaders that “look out the window to attribute success to factors outside themselves,” also are looking down at superstitious or “Vegas-style” factors of luck, rather than looking out the window and up to the heavens from where, traditionally speaking, divine will emanates.

Perhaps, there should be a level 6 leader (after the level 5 great leader) that is “truly great” and this is the leader that not only has personal humility and professional will, but also belief in a power much higher than themselves that supersedes “good luck.”


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