Positive Culture and the Common Good

One of the key capacities of a positive leader is the ability to create a positive culture. It begins with the ability to subordinate one’s self to the collective good.
I know a man who is the CEO of a positive organization. He told me a story that is therefore highly instructive. His organization was invited to bid on a huge contract. Obtaining it would shape the company for years to come. Preparation took a year and involved many people from across the organization.
On the appointed day, the top management team made the presentation. It went perfectly. The hosts then asked if the project could be up and running in 90 days. The CEO assured them that it could. His COO spoke up. “That is not accurate. In 90 days we can be meeting a fraction of your needs but it will take 180 days to be in position to do what you are asking.”
In reflecting on this moment, the CEO said he was devastated. He was sure the contract was lost. Yet he did not say anything about anger.
When asked what happened to the COO. He said, “The COO was doing what I expected, he was telling the truth. Everyone on our team is expected to tell the truth all the time. That is what makes us a great organization. I was not mad at him, I was sad because we were going to lose the contract.”
Given conventional assumptions, this claim is radical. What happened next is instructive.
The people in the potential client organization had never seen anything like what they had just witnessed. It certainly would not have happened in their organization. They concluded that if the top management team functioned as they did, the odds were that they would be fully truthful and highly collaborative in all their future interactions with the client company. They were awarded the contract.
The awarding of the contract adds a nice ending to this account. It is not important. The value of this account is that it demonstrates that some human beings evolve into positive leaders. They create teams that also evolve. A culture emerges in which everyone puts the highest good first. This is rare, and the existence of such a reality jolts us. It is an important jolt. It is a jolt from the reality of possibility. It is an empirical manifestation of what we are all capable of doing.
In the end, positive Leaders see the ecology. They recognized that they are a part of the whole. More significantly they realize that the whole is more important than the ego. They continually attempt to clarify what the collective good is. They work to continuously subordinate themselves to the collective good. People in the network respond to a person who is honestly committed to the collective good. The person attracts the respect and trust of increasing numbers of people. They become more willing to take risks with the leader.
Eventually, as larger numbers of people begin to subordinate themselves to the collective good, the network becomes a community. Internal competition and antagonism decline. Cooperation escalates and the community becomes capable of doing things that are extraordinary. The essence of leadership is less about designing organizations and more about developing communities. One key to the process is the abnormal act of subordinating one’s self to the collective good.

  • What is positive leadership?
  • Why does it produce positive culture?
  • What do I know for sure about these two topics?


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