Inspiration, Henry Kissinger And The Purchasing Department

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


A reasonably quick thought.

I recently read Henry Kissinger's latest book which promised to explain the new 'World Order' and which, as far as I could discern, did no such thing. But it did deliver two things, a great history lesson and this quote about Cardinal Richelieu, which I am paraphrasing slightly for my own bloggy purposes:

"Three conclusions .... First, the indispensable element of a successful leader is a long term strategy based on a careful analysis of all relevant factors. Second, the leader must distill that vision by shaping ambiguous and often conflicting pressures into a coherent and purposeful direction - everyone must know where that strategy is leading and why. And third, the leader must act at the outer edge of the possible, bridging the gap between his or her (team's) experiences and their aspirations. Because repetition of the familiar leads to stagnation, real daring is required."

Kissinger is, of course, contemplating national leadership. You probably think that I will now say that these three requirements are also an outstanding description of effective corporate leadership, but that's too obvious. Kissinger's three conclusions go well beyond that. Especially as companies get bigger - it applies right down the line into the leadership of every Division and Department. Do me a favour and read it again (it's really very good, and the book cost me about forty bucks). And now tell me what leader - of any team - wouldn't really excite their group with a distilled, coherent and purposeful vision .... that operates on the outer edge of the possible? Read that, and you get inspired, and so will your team. Whether it's the International Division or the Purchasing Department, you do that and your people are now fully engaged and ready to go. Just cut 'em loose.

Leaders think they are supposed to lead. That's bunk. In my humble view, you need only two things: A clear, well thought out, purposeful vision, and the courage to inspire. Individual courage and conviction are the keys; if you have those, the rest will happen.

Thanks for reading, and unless you're a history buff, I may have just saved you forty bucks.