Leader_1According to the Deb Nelson and Mark Albion’s research, successful leadership depends on three essential leadership practices: leading more like a monk, an architect, and a diplomat.

As monks, leaders become more mindful of their leadership role in the company and their impact on people; as architects, they spend most of their time on the immeasurable process known as company culture; and as diplomats, they become expert collaborators inside and outside of their organizations. Let’s look more closely at these three transitions critical to leading for scale.



1.Be a monk. Monks invite you to become spiritually engaged in your work. They do this by subtly modeling the values they want to impart. They listen carefully, never direct you paternalistically, and always strive to help you find your way. Successful leaders recognize that their primary role is to turn the organization’s mission and values into practice. Like monks, they know that everything they say and do—and don’t say or do—send signals through the company about what values are important.


So be mindful of your powerful effect on people in your organization. No matter what the formal company documents say, you make values visible. If respect for others is an important company value, what do you do when you, the CEO, walk into an office where two co-workers are engaged in a business conversation? Do you interrupt them because you and your agenda are more important, or do you wait your turn until they are finished?  Also don’t feel you need to know everything. If you did, there’d be no room for anyone else to contribute. Admit to “not knowing,” even as you help others develop their competence. This creates an atmosphere of honesty and transparency, where employees share information and responsibility, accept doubt, and expect help in finding sustainable solutions to business challenges.


2.Be an architect. Ask yourself how you can build the team. Too often, social entrepreneurs never make what is likely the most difficult transition of them all: moving from addressing a social cause personally to creating a social enterprise to address that cause. The reason? They took their company culture for granted. That culture is the foundation of organizational effectiveness.


Becoming the architect of a leadership-distributive culture—a culture of shared leadership—is challenging. Traditional leaders typically try to control everything. But social entrepreneurs must find a way to let go of control while remaining involved. If they don’t, they minimize the opportunity for others to grow into leadership roles. Not only does growth make this less possible, but it also makes good people leave and others never graduate into leadership roles.


Successful social entrepreneurs have redefined corporate growth as this less measurable process, their people’s personal growth. As one CEO put it: “we have changed our measure of success away from continual material growth, to internal growth.” We can create both more personal and social change by deepening our relationships. We are growing consciousness and relationships—all the things that make life interesting—in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable for everyone.”


3.Be a diplomat. Successful entrepreneurs consider themselves compassionate diplomats and create collaborations that defy traditional boundaries, so they can share their business advantages with other companies. Sometimes they even give their advantages away to competitors.


Judy Wicks, founder and former CEO of Philadelphia’s White Dog Cafe, focuses on her brand’s success and on creating an industry model for social change. “Our relationship with people, animals, and nature is more important than dollars,” Wicks proclaimed. “That’s why I’m happy not only to give my advantage away to my competitors, but I’ll even educate them.” Wicks is referring to her cruelty-free menu. When she discovered that the factory farm system treated pigs inhumanely, she took pork off the menu. She then helped increase the supply of pork to help local pig farmers switch to free-range practices. The press, politicians, consumers, and other business leaders commended Wicks publicly, and more customers flocked to her restaurant.


Social entrepreneurs are as passionate about their work as anyone. Yet leadership is an act of liberation, not of control, and it starts with unleashing your passion and finding your way. Paradoxically, this will happen only when you help others reach their full potential and uncover their passions—when you inspire them to dream more, do more, and be more.