Leadership Roles in shaping their Organisations
I recently visited the Writ in Water memorial at Runnymede near Windsor where I live. It reflects on the founding principles of the Maga Carta, signed in 1215, when the feudal barons in England forced King John to acknowledge common law and founding principles of the rights of individuals.
What does this have to do with Leadership? It made me reflect on the role of leaders in embedding the values, purposes and guidelines written for their organisations
I have attached two photos to explain.
Clause 39 of the Magna Carta fundamental principles of justice is written upside down on metal plates shaped to form a reservoir of water in the Memorial. The words can only be read as they are reflected the right way up in the pool of water below. Here is my reflection on how this applies to leaders shaping their organisations.
1. When the water is turbulent it is near impossible to read what these principles of justice are. The words are indistinct, and the viewer becomes frustrated trying to read them. I think leaders play the role of enabling guidelines, values, purpose and practices to be understood. The role of leaders therefore is to ensure that the environment is sufficiently calm·and stable so that people can "read" what these are. When the water is turbulent, the letters can be misread or even ignored as it is too difficult to interpret them. We have seen countries and Companies where extreme turbulence is experienced. In these situations people lose confidence in the given guidelines. What is right and wrong becomes fuzzy in its interpretation.
2. The rule of law is most clearly reflected in the environment itself - within society, within organisations (within the water). When laws or values are only written in cold letters on the wall, they can be difficult to interpret by ordinary people. However, when those same laws/guidelines/values are reflected in the practice of society, people can easily understand them. The role of leaders is to help these guidelines and purposes to be practiced and be imbedded in their organisations. What is the point of having vision statements and value statements when they remain written on a wall, but not reflected in the people themselves?