Who is "the Company"?

We recently launched a global frontline leadership program for a new client. During the first pilot, one of the company’s SVPs spoke to the group of leaders about his perspectives on leadership and the experiences that shaped his career as a leader.

Part way through his talk he asked the group, “Who is “the Company”?  Everyone was puzzled by his question.  He then proceeded to explain that when he first became a manager in “the company”, he was excited about taking on this new role. However, he soon found himself feeling increasingly frustrated.  As a manager he began to see more of how the organization operated - things that he wasn’t aware of in his previous role.  He now had a closer look into the company’s challenges and problems –all the warts and blemishes.  The SVP told the group that often at the height of his frustration he would say, “This company has got to get its act together!"

The participants in the room laughed as they could all relate. He continued by saying that for a long time he always thought that “the company” was this “thing” -- an entity that was separate from himself. He further explained that he tended to blame the organization’s senior leaders for all of “his” problems.

Then his presentation took an interesting twist when he said, “When I started to assume more senior leadership roles, I realized that “the company” wasn't this “thing” at all --in fact, “the company was me.  I was the company.” The room became silent.  He then made a powerful statement, “That's when I stopped being a manager, and became a leader.”

I find that in almost every leadership program we run for our clients, there is always a critical moment when leaders are confronted with this important insight.

Your company isn’t an abstract entity.  You are the company and the moment you make the shift, you will see a change in how you show up as a leader and in how others perceive you. 

So take a moment and ask yourself:

• Do I show up every day at work believing that I am separate from my “company”? 
• Do I blame “the company” for all my problems?

If you said yes to either of these two questions then you have some work to do in order to improve your leadership effectiveness.