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Leadership From Rock Breakers to Cathedral Builders

There's a timeless tale that paints a vivid picture of executive mindset. It's a story from the German Middle Ages about stonecutting, where three workers were asked what they were doing. The first replied, "I’m breaking rocks." The second, a bit more pragmatic, said, "I am earning my living." But it was the third who stood out, declaring, "I’m building a cathedral."


This story, while simple, carries many profound implications. It prompts us to ponder: What type of executive do we have in our team? Are they merely breaking rocks, consumed by the day-to-day grind? Or perhaps, are they solely focused on earning their living, year after year, without a broader vision? And then, there's the rare breed—the executive who sees beyond the immediate tasks, who envisions a future where their actions build a lasting legacy of value.


Let's delve into these archetypes of leadership.




Cathedral Builders Leadership

The Dynamic Landscape of Executive Leadership


It's undeniable that in the world of business, we encounter executives who fit neatly into one of these three categories, showcasing the diverse range of leadership styles. However, we must acknowledge that executives evolve and change in the leadership path. While each type has its strengths, the key lies in identifying which aligns best with you and your team's core values, interests, and needs.


Understanding the distinct motivations of these executives is crucial for effective management. Their approaches differ significantly, and recognizing these differences is paramount. What motivates a Rock Breaker may not resonate with a Cathedral Builder, and vice versa. As leaders, it's essential to tailor our management style to accommodate these varying approaches, fostering a more cohesive and productive team environment.


The Rock Breaker


This is a meticulous executive, often found deeply engrossed in the day-to-day operations of their organization. They thrive on structure and routine, meticulously managing tasks, deadlines, and details. While their attention to detail is commendable, they can sometimes become bogged down by minutiae, losing sight of the bigger picture. This type of executive is essential for ensuring that operations run smoothly, but they may struggle to innovate or adapt to change due to their focus on the status quo.


How do you motivate the Rock Breakers?


(1) Recognizing Contributions

Acknowledge their efforts and the impact of their attention to detail on the team's success. Highlighting their achievements can boost their morale and motivation.


(2) Setting Clear Goals

Provide them with clear, achievable goals that align with the broader organizational objectives. This gives them a sense of purpose and direction in their work.


(3) Offering Professional Development

Provide opportunities for them to expand their skills and knowledge. Rock Breakers thrive on learning and mastering new tasks, so offering training or workshops can keep them engaged.


(4) Encouraging Collaboration

While Rock Breakers excel at individual tasks, encourage them to collaborate with others. This can help them see the bigger picture and understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the team.


(5) Providing Feedback

Regular feedback, both positive and constructive, is crucial for motivating Rock Breakers. They appreciate knowing where they stand and how they can improve.

Recognizing Work-Life Balance: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance can help prevent burnout and keep them motivated in the long run.


What are the shadows of the Rock Breaker?


(1) Lack of Innovation

Due to their focus on details and routine, Rock Breakers may resist change and innovation, preferring to stick to familiar methods rather than exploring new ideas.


(2) Micro-Management

Their attention to detail can sometimes border on micromanagement, which can lead to frustration among team members and hinder creativity and autonomy.


(3) Burnout

The relentless focus on tasks and details can lead to burnout, as Rock Breakers may struggle to delegate or take breaks, feeling the need to constantly stay on top of everything.


(4) Missed Opportunities

By being overly focused on the immediate tasks at hand, Rock Breakers may overlook long-term strategic opportunities or fail to see the bigger picture, potentially missing out on growth opportunities for the organization.


(5) Lack of Flexibility

Rock Breakers may struggle to adapt to changing circumstances or unexpected challenges, as they are accustomed to following established processes and routines.


(6) Limited Leadership Scope

Their focus on tasks and details may limit their ability to think strategically or inspire and motivate others, potentially hindering their effectiveness as leaders.


The Wage Earner


This executive approaches their role with a pragmatic mindset, viewing work as a means to an end. They are focused on advancing their career, earning a living, and achieving personal success. While they are driven and ambitious, their primary motivation is often self-oriented, leading them to prioritize personal gain over broader organizational goals. This type of executive may excel in roles that require a high level of drive and ambition, but they may struggle to inspire and lead others towards a larger vision.


How do you motivate the Wage Earner?


(1) Goal Alignment

Clearly connect their individual goals with the organization's objectives. Show how achieving company goals will also benefit their personal growth and advancement.


(2) Recognition and Rewards

Acknowledge their achievements publicly and reward them for their hard work. This could be through bonuses, promotions, or other incentives that recognize their contributions.


(3) Career Development Opportunities

Provide opportunities for them to advance their career within the organization. This could include promotions, leadership training, or opportunities to take on more responsibility.


(4) Competitive Environment

Foster a competitive environment where they can excel and see their efforts paying off. This could include setting performance targets and rewarding those who exceed them.


(5) Feedback and Performance Reviews

Regular feedback on their performance and progress towards their goals can help keep them motivated. It also provides them with a clear roadmap for improvement.


(6) Recognition of Individual Achievement

Highlight their individual achievements and how they contribute to the overall success of the team and organization. This can boost their morale and motivation.


What are the shadows of the Wage Earners?


(1) Self-Interest Over Team Success

A focus on personal advancement and success may lead Wage Earners to prioritize their own goals over those of the team or organization, potentially creating a competitive rather than collaborative environment.


(2) Risk Aversion

Wage Earners may be hesitant to take risks or pursue innovative ideas that could benefit the organization, as they prioritize stability and personal gain.


(3) Limited Vision

Their focus on short-term goals and personal success may result in a limited vision for the organization, overlooking long-term strategic opportunities for growth and development.


(4) Lack of Adaptability

Wage Earners may struggle to adapt to change or new challenges, as they are accustomed to following a predefined path towards personal success.


(5) Employee Disengagement

A focus on personal success rather than team success may lead to disengagement among team members, as they may feel undervalued or unsupported in their own career development.


(6) Stagnation

Without a broader vision or willingness to take risks, Wage Earners may become stagnant in their roles, limiting their own professional growth and development.


The Cathedral Builder


This is a visionary leader who sees beyond the immediate tasks and envisions a future of lasting impact. They are driven by a desire to build something meaningful and enduring, creating a legacy of value that transcends their time. This type of executive is often characterized by their ability to inspire others, think strategically, and lead with purpose. They are not content with the status quo and are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and drive positive change.


How do you motivate the Cathedral Builders?

(1) Inspiring Vision

Share a compelling vision for the organization that aligns with their values and aspirations. Help them see how their work contributes to a larger, meaningful purpose.


(2) Autonomy and Trust

Give them the autonomy to pursue their vision and trust in their ability to lead. Provide support and resources, but allow them the freedom to innovate and take risks.


(3) Challenge and Growth

Provide challenging projects and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Cathedral Builders thrive on pushing boundaries and exploring new ideas.


(4) Recognition of Impact

Recognize and celebrate their contributions, highlighting the positive impact they have on the organization and its stakeholders. This can reinforce their sense of purpose and motivation.


(5) Long-Term Perspective

Encourage them to think long-term and consider the legacy they want to leave behind. Help them see beyond immediate challenges and focus on building something enduring and meaningful.


(6) Collaborative Environment

Foster a collaborative environment where Cathedral Builders can work with like-minded individuals who share their passion and drive. This can help fuel their motivation and creativity.


What are the shadows of the Cathedral Builders?


(1) Overwhelm

The visionary nature of Cathedral Builders can sometimes lead to taking on too much or setting unrealistic goals, which can result in overwhelm and burnout.


(2) Disconnect from Reality

Their focus on long-term vision and legacy-building may sometimes lead Cathedral Builders to lose sight of practical realities or current challenges facing the organization.


(3) Resistance to Change

Cathedral Builders may become overly attached to their vision and resistant to feedback or changes in direction, which can hinder adaptability and innovation within the organization.


(4) Lack of Attention to Detail

Their focus on the big picture and long-term goals may sometimes result in overlooking important details or operational issues that need immediate attention.


(5) Difficulty in Delegation

Cathedral Builders may struggle to delegate tasks or empower others, as they may feel that no one else can execute their vision as effectively as they can.


(6) Unrealistic Expectations

Their ambitious vision and desire to create a lasting impact may sometimes lead to setting unrealistic expectations for themselves and others, which can result in disappointment or disillusionment.


Tailoring Leadership Incentives for Your Executive Team


Looking at your executive team, take a moment to reflect on your own approach to each of them individually. Are you setting the right incentives for the Rock Breaker, meticulously focused on the details? For a Wage Earner, how are you balancing the business and its personal success? and, for the Cathedral Builder, what's your contribution to this person as part of its legacy and lasting impact on the organization?


Whatever their current style, remember that leadership is not static. It evolves with experience, insights, and the willingness to adapt. Embrace the diversity of leadership styles, both in yourself and in others, recognizing that each has its strengths and opportunities for growth.


As you navigate the leadership journey, strive to align your actions with your core values and aspirations. Seek to understand the motivations of those around you, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. By embracing the multifaceted nature of leadership, you can create a dynamic and thriving environment where everyone has the opportunity to shine.


In the end, leadership is not about fitting into a predetermined mold, but about embracing your unique strengths and using them to inspire others. So, as you continue on your leadership path, dare to be bold, dare to be visionary, and dare to build your own cathedral of success.

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