August 6, 2012
If it didn’t exist, would you create it?
Sounds like a deep dive in philosophy, but it was an outtake from a conversation a good friend – and, Master’s graduate – about a ministry we both appreciate. He serves on their board; their Founder is a friend of mine. The leadership is engaging in succession conversations, knowing that their high-visibility founder won’t be there forever. Since inception, the ministry has found life from its association with the boss; the question they’re exploring is vital: what would they be without him?
The issue raised by my friend was summarized in my response: if the enterprise didn’t exist… knowing what you know, today, about the need it addresses: would you create it anew?
The answer to that question empowers the pursuit of their initiative: if current and future circumstances do not validate the mission, it won’t survive the extraction of the Entrepreneur. If it has merit apart from the man, it’s worth investing the energy to reframe it for the future.
Almost 350 years ago, that kind of conversation was raised by a French philosopher whose name perhaps you don’t know, but whose thoughts you do. François-Marie Arouet; known to us – and, to history, as Voltaire – put it this way: “What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason… If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
Voltaire was not a Christian; he was a theist, as were other influencers of his period – notably, Thomas Jefferson. But, despite a personal relationship with the Almighty, he recognized the essential value of mankind finding its place under the superior sovereignty of a credible Creator. If God did not exist, His essential contribution to life and culture would require an emergency intervention to find a candidate…
Mankind flounders without a Maker; only slightly better is the effort to create a Creator in our image, instead of accepting the revelation of the reverse. The further we move from an Authority who is also an Author who gives us clarity through communication that can be validated and verified – as sourced in God and not scattered by the winds of culture and contradiction – we find ourselves in a swamp of suggestion rather than the territory of truth.
Back to the question: if it didn’t exist today, would you create it? That’s a question that leaders sometimes avoid asking, because the answers may lead to unsettling challenges that lead them to crossroads that will lead to either gradual breakdowns or game-changing breakthroughs.
We talked more… and concluded that the organization in question has contributory potential with or without the Champion at the helm. It’s great with him there… but its greatness is no longer dependent on him to deliver value. He’s free to stay… but he’s also free to go, or grow, as time progresses.
If you’re married, don’t ever fall prey to asking that question of your covenant relationship. “Until death do us part” is in the Terms and Conditions section of the homepage that you had to click “agree” to go into the arrangement. That’s God’s Pre-Nup, and He’s not open to challenges on that.
But… have you asked that crucial question about your career life? Whether you own the organization – or, you own only your box in the org chart – that question is a valid strategic challenge to engage while you’re away from the frontline during your summer solace. Knowing what you know now, would you navigate yourself into the professional position you’re going back to after vacation? If the honest answer is, “Probably not…” what creative opportunity for your future are you unavailable to pursue because of the self-restraints you’ve accepted?
Let me put myself on the line: given what you know about the work we do at The Master’s Program, after a 15 year run… if we didn’t exist today, would you create us? Hit “reply” and give me your opinion.., and, while you’re at it, give me your reason for your answer!