Watching a programme on the infinite possibilities of life in the universe, the filming did one of those telescoping out shots zooming from a recognisable bit of the earth ever outwards into an expanding, seemingly boundless universe. You’d think that this vertiginous journey from known to unknown, finite to infinite would undermine you, make you feel small but for me it had the opposite effect.
I could see, with excitement that I was part of something much bigger and more important than myself. From time to time, to ground myself, I will consciously expand my perceptions outwards to feel connected to something that is so much bigger than me but of which I am still a part.
Good leaders see the bigger picture, great leaders connect others to it
It seems great leaders of organisations, do the same thing. They don’t just see the bigger picture, they pass on that sense of excitement, by enabling others to see it. Better leaders give people a sense of how the bigger picture is a part of them and how their contribution to its creation matters. The job of a leader is not just the seeing- it’s connecting what people do to what they see, so they, too, feel part of it and invested in creating it.
The more connected to a bigger purpose, the more engaged a work force. Think of that cleaner in NASA who told the visiting JFK he wasn’t just cleaning a room, no, he was helping put a man on the moon.
One leader we know got the whole organisation to define the essence of the company’s bigger picture. Beyond the “what they were doing” (in this case building the London Tideway Tunnel) there was “why they were doing it” (to create value for a wide community) and what that meant about how they defined their bigger picture (to reconnect people with the river). The eventual bigger picture had a collective emotional connection: it was about the city’s love affair with its river.
What does it take to pass on and obtain that sense of connection to the team, or the organisation? We would say to build and involve those connections from the outset. Isn’t this the part of the puzzle to have a sustainable business in the 21st century – to find a connection, a purpose we can all get excited about?
A bigger picture is a only the start, whether it will project you into space depends on how you inspire others to help you create it.
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