Intrigued? I definitely was when I read a recent blog post from the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “Monk, Architect, Diplomat” by Mark Albion.Don’t hold your breath for a punchlineAnd it turns out the post didn’t just have a witty title to pull readers in, well, unwittingly (on that note I will admit that I do give a hearty mental ‘bravo’ to witting, insightful, or just plain well-put titles). The article was a well-reasoned piece on how social entrepreneurs can successful scale-up as their organizations grow. Rather than lack of finances, Albion argues that the underlying reason social entrepreneurs have difficulty scaling to a larger version of themselves is due to challenges in leadership.Albion focuses his leadership advice into three simple statements:

1. Be a monk, not a father.

2. Be an architect, not a captain.

3. Be a diplomat, not a dictator.

Through these metaphors he describes the successful expanding social entrepreneur as one who is socially engaged in her work, and mindful of her impact on others. For the greater goal of the mission and vision, she is willing and capable of distributing leadership and building a strong team. And she’ll spot the forest from the trees by not hesitating to be collaborative and compassionate.

It’s a great read. And inspiring. Sometimes being in a hierarchical framework such as a corporation, non-profit, or social enterprise it may seem like you are on a ladder with the options being continuing up, falling back, or holding still. This article and metaphors of leadership, allow us to be makers of a delicate yet resilient web of work—far reaching, three dimensional, and progressing in more than one direction. I like it, and I like the possibility and scope of thinking of meaningful leadership in this way.

If I had to add a #4 to Albion’s list, it would be:

4. Be a sherpa, not a ranger.

While I have not been in a position to scale-up a social enterprise as Albion describes, I have been part of the active leadership of social organizations that have changed hands. And I have seen first-hand the importance of sherpa-ness. While sherpas (Wikipedia) supply the necessary support and guidance on a demanding trek, it is not their hike. They serve as support for those who have chosen to undertake a challenging journey.

In the same way, “alumni” or subsequent generations of an organization or cause don’t necessarily need to hide under a rock so as not to influence the path of successive leadership. But I think they can benefit from seeing themselves and their accumulated expertise as support. Perhaps the support that would have helped them when they were actively leading or the support to help traverse a particularly tricky pass. Most of all they should form the support that is asked for by the noveau leaders.

While rangers no doubt save lives, prevent forest fires, and maintain pristine surroundings—in a social entrepreneurship venture ‘naysaying’ by organization alums may create confusion and uncertainty that can handicap a growing organization.

Read on:

 

What should we write about next?

  • Was this helpful?
  • Yes   No
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.