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Article -> Discovering an Organization's Soul

Date Added: July 2012

Note: This article appeared in the July 15, 2012 issue of The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Organizations with a great culture and values should transcend time, and CEOs should not change these unless they need improvement. What about an organization’s soul? A soul is the immortal essence of an individual, living thing or object. It’s deeper than culture. I never gave much thought to an organization’s soul until interactions with two amazing CEOs.

Both are female and in their early 40’s. Both increased their organization’s top and bottom-line during the past five years. Both lead organizations with amazing cultures. And both have a unique blend of heart and business acumen, relating to the organization’s soul.

The blend of heart and business acumen got me thinking about their impact on their organization’s soul because this seemed much deeper than culture. Both CEOs are revered by their employees and respected in their communities.

Both lead with their heart. They have engaging smiles, warm personalities, express vulnerability, and are focused on you during interactions. They are people you want to spend time with; and while you may want more time with them, you appreciate the gift received from the time you have.

Heart is embodied in each organization’s culture. Employees exude the happiness and friendliness to visitors, suppliers and clients. Along with this, successful organizations need business acumen (i.e. head). This lies beneath each CEO’s heart and is an amazing one-two combination for all organizational touchpoints.

In one organization, the CEO’s head moves the organization’s heart to the exceptional service and technological innovation represented in its business strategy. In the other organization, the CEO’s heart leads employees to exemplify the outstanding service and R&D innovation into business growth.

The similarities between these very different organizations is remarkable. Amazing cultures with dedicated employees. Extraordinary service blended with innovation. Leading with heart, followed by head. Is this the formula for an organization’s soul?

A third leader, who is similar; has noticed a different effect. If he leads with head and follows with heart, the results are not as strong and employees are not as committed. While we’re all driven by results, the heart earns us the right to use our head.

Think about it. Your most loyal employees, suppliers, clients, friends and family are those you have truly opened your heart to. Those you have taken time to know and allowed them to know you. These two CEOs do this with virtually everyone they interact with.

Once this occurs, assuming you have good business acumen, you can engage others into your strategy – whether it is innovation, service, process improvement, quality, etc. While both head and heart are necessary; you can lead with head (followed by heart) for awhile; however, it will never take you as far as heart followed by head.

While an organization’s culture and values should not change much based on a CEO, its soul may change greatly. The soul is supposed to be separate from the body, so when a CEO leaves an organization, does the soul also leave resulting in a negative impact on results, employees, clients, etc.?

If this occurs, we must determine how to maintain the organization’s soul. This is a combined effort from all involved, resting mainly on us. If CEOs are willing to give a little of their soul and we’re willing to accept it, the organization’s soul remains intact and positively grows. If we are willing to give a little of our own soul, the organizational impact is much more profound.

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