Check out a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, "Principle, Bravery, and the X Factor" The author asks whether business (and business schools) focus on perfecting "content" at the expense of "context." (Context being the operating framework, i.e. the vision, in which the content, i.e. daily operations in support of that vision, occurs.) The more principled and courageous the vision, the more likely everyone in the organization (the content creators) will get on board and go above and beyond.
No arguments with that assertion. These "X factor" enterprises are the ones that high-potentials line up to work for. Maybe we're part of one. If not, how can we get our organizations on that path? First, throw away metrics at the vision level, the author says, and I agree. Recall the sign in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton:
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." Context-rich leaders feel in it their guts, not in their heads. (Steve Jobs: "I want to make a ding in the universe.")
Setting an inspirational vision and courageously sticking to principles falls to the chief executive. It may be lonely at the top, but in this critical endeavor he or she is not alone. The CCO ensures that the vision is understood and supported throughout and beyond the organization. And in some cases to co-create that vision. And, I would add, in all cases to steer the chief in a different direction if the vision isn't powerful enough and principled enough to inspire acts of courage throughout the company.
Chief communications officers create content like the rest of their peers. As chief context officers, we sign up to be as brave - sometimes braver - than the most courageous CEOs. That's our X factor. And judging by the HBR blog post and follow-on comments, that X factor is needed now more than ever.
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