May 8, 2005

A Sense of Style

“Mark didn’t try to impose his style on us
as much as integrate his eye to the reality of our lives.”

New York Times, April 7, 2005

The above quote comes from actor Chad Lowe referencing Mark Zeff, the interior designer who redid the home Lowe shares with his wife, actress Hilary Swank. I’ve been carrying it around with me in my daily planner for weeks and have spent a great deal of time thinking about it.

When someone moves into a leadership position with a new committee, board, or organization, that person becomes, in essence, an interior designer of the environment in which people will be working together. Jult like the interior of a home, sometimes the organization or project needs a completely new look or sense of style; in other instances, simply editing the existing elements and/or rearranging them may be all that is required.

While it can be tempting when “you’re in charge” to impose your sense of style on others, we might benefit by adopting the Mr. Zeff's stance. Our new colleagues have a reality they’ve been managing long before we arrived. We should respect them and their reality by getting a sense of it firsthand, working alongside them as thoughtful observers.

It would serve us well to integrate (at least initially) our leadership style to the environs and culture already in existence. By doing so we might gain the respect and trust that will allow us to gain support for any new reality we might hope to create for how the work being done and the individuals involved in doing it.

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