If it didn’t exist, would you create it?
I spent the first half of my adult life trying to come up with the right answers. I’ve spent the second half trying to find the right questions. That’s one of the best questions I know to ask…
I have a good friend – and, Master’s graduate – who serves on the board of a well-known ministry organization. Still led by their founder – in his 60s, but still healthy – the word “succession” is whispered among directors, when the CEO isn’t nearby. Could the enterprise continue without the Originator at the helm?
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, without the Founder?
If current and future circumstances don’t 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. If it’s a custom enterprise dependent on him, bury it under his headstone and distribute the assets.
Almost 350 years ago, that issue was raised by a French philosopher whose name you don’t know, but whose thoughts you’ve pondered. 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. He didn’t know God, but he recognized the essential value of mankind finding its place under the superior sovereignty of a credible Creator. In his view, if God did not exist, His vital contribution to life and culture would require an emergency search to find or create one…
Creation flounders without a Creator; it motivates some to invent a deity in their own image instead of honoring the One who set their life in motion. Modern, accomplished humans – self-elevated to a place where no god is needed above the executive penthouse – have no up-line to instill life with transcendent meaning. The result: opposing cultures invest in war instead of worship.
Back to the question: if it didn’t exist today, would you create it? That’s an alternative that leaders usually avoid; doing so may lead to unsettling conclusions. Status quo often suggests that leadership has gone on holiday, with no plans to ever return and really lead.
We talked more… and concluded that the organization in question still has potential value, with or without the Founder at the helm. It’s great with him there, but greatness is no longer dependent on him alone. He’s free to stay… but he’s also free to go, or grow, as the future unfolds.
Caution: if you’re married, don’t ever ask that question of your covenant relationship. “Til death do us part” is in the standard contract, written in Heaven. That’s God’s prenup; no editing allowed…
But, have you asked that question about your career life? Whether you own the organization – or, you’re a box in the org chart – it’s worth exploring during your summer break. Knowing what you know now, would you advise yourself to pursue the career spot you occupied when you left on vacation? If the honest answer is, “Probably not…” what breakthrough – to reinvent your current assignment, or create a new role – won’t happen until you trigger it?
Let me take a consulting selfie: given what you know about the work we do at The Master’s Program, after a 21 year run… if TMP didn’t exist today, would you create us? Hit “reply” and give me your opinion. Whether “yes” or “no,” give me your reasoning, in 50-words-or-less!