Leaders See A River . . . (Part 2)

(This is the second part of the blog post entitled Leaders See A River. If you have not read Part 1, you may want to read that segment first, then return to this blog.)

So what does this [river metaphor] have to do with organizations? Many things in nature make a good analogy for what we see in organizations. The raindrops could represent individual people, tasks, or activities. As these flow together, you have a process. As processes flow together, you have a department or function just like streams form creeks.

So what does a river have to do with organizations? Many things in nature make a good analogy for what we see in organizations. The raindrops could represent individual people, tasks, or activities. As these flow together, you have a process. As processes flow together, you have a department or function just like streams form creeks.

As these flow together, you have an organization. Individuals in an organization are unique but flow with the organization. In a good organization, individuals do not lose their distinctiveness. But, there is a oneness where people and processes come together.

Just as a river has banks, creating boundaries and giving direction, so does an organization. The organization gets boundaries from its values, policies, training, and accountability systems. It gets direction from its vision and priorities. Through these, people retain their uniqueness and are given guidance without being micromanaged. Good organizations flow in a steady direction but have some twists and turns as they work around barriers and pursue unforeseen opportunities. The leader knows to watch out for people who are like beavers. They are very active people who only use the organization for their purposes. They are not really part of the organization and can stop the flow of progress if allowed.

River at Dam

A clear set of priorities around major initiatives will create a great inflection point similar to a waterfall. Things move much faster with much greater power. There is a force and beauty to it all. As this happens, the leader knows that much happened beforehand to reach this inflection point. They understand this is made up of contributions of many individuals, processes, and activities. The spray at the bottom of the waterfall reminds leaders that many small contributions are all part of making the organization great.

After the inflection point in an organization, there continues to be a flow. The leader knows there will be obstacles in the way. They know there’s danger coupled with the potential for great excitement, adventure, and fun. The leader knows that the river, the waterfall, and stream all serve a purpose. God made rivers for a reason. Visionary leaders see the purpose of their organization and how it all works together.

Most importantly, they help people see the big picture. They help people see where they fit into the flow and add to the power in accomplishing the vision of the organization. They help people feel connected. They help them feel more alive. They help people feel good about the connection and contribution because they see where they fit in. They help people see the beauty and power of it all. The most important part is they help them feel good about being part of it.

If you want to bless the people in your organization or who are joining your organization, you need to be clear about where you’re going, where they fit in, and the values you will operate upon. This gives people a feeling of meaning and belonging. It improves morale and productivity. And since people are generally one of the greatest assets and costs of any organization, that makes you a better steward of the organization’s resources.

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