A healthy soul, therefore, must do two things for us. First, it must put some fire in our veins, keep us energized, vibrant, living with zest, and full of hope as we sense that life is, ultimately beautiful and worth living. Second, a healthy soul has to keep us fixed together. It has to continually give us a sense of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and what sense there is in all of this. (Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing)
What is true for individuals is also true in organizations. Every organization needs a combination of two elements. Healthy organizations need the tension between chaos and order. Every company needs both fire and water. Every company needs a healthy soul.
Without the fire of chaos, organizations grow stale. Without some entrepreneurial spark, it’s easy to settle into an existence where the status quo becomes comfortable. At best, a company without fire will experience lower employee engagement and a subpar level of energy. At worst, it’s a slow death as hope fades and the embers of positive change slowly die.
Organizations need fire. Indeed, it’s the secret for a vibrant business that is full of hope. Courageous leaders do not fear the fire of creativity and change. They do not ignore tough questions. Is my work meaningful? Am I contributing to something worthwhile? Healthy leaders want more fire in the belly of the organization.
How do you create the fire? Every organization is different. But, the common denominator is vision. A compelling and captivating vision will provide fuel for the fire. It attracts others and brings out their best. Leaders must create a contagious culture that enables everyone to connect and contribute to the energy. You cannot build fire alone.
On the other hand, wildfire can be detrimental. Positive change is not unbridled. There is a need for boundaries. Healthy companies understand the importance of healthy consensus. As Rolheiser describes it, something has to “keep us fixed together” and make sense of all the change. Frequently, revolutionary change is messy. That’s why fire safety is important.
If the tension between chaos and order is necessary, how do leaders find the proper balance? The answer lies in an untapped resource. There is ample evidence that most companies have articulated a set of core values. Unfortunately, those core values remain tightly sealed behind the glass, neatly framed and hanging on the wall. Healthy organizations recognize that it’s time to break the glass and release them into the realm of real life. Instead of squelching decision making, core values will channel momentum toward the vision. Core values provide the order that allows for a fire that is focused and purposeful.
How healthy is the soul of your company? Do you have too little fire? Do you have too much water? Strive for a healthy tension between the two. Revitalize your vision and release your values and grow a beautiful company that reflects the immense talent and resources that lie within.