Nino Lo Bello writes in European Detours about Sir Christopher Wren and his design of Windsor Town Hall near London. Built in 1689, the ceiling was supported by pillars. After city fathers had inspected the finished building, they decided the ceiling would not stay up and ordered Wren to put in some more pillars.
England’s greatest architect did not think the ceiling needed any more support, so he pulled a fast one. He added four pillars that did not do anything – they did not even reach the ceiling. The optical illusion fooled municipal authorities, and today the four sham pillars amuse many tourists.
Within every organization is a need for pillars – they are the go-to people who are steadfast and committed to success. These pillars are grounded in the qualities that inspire confidence and shape an in-house culture of excellence.
Support pillars are not hard to spot. Their qualities are indispensable, transferable, and attainable. Develop these leadership qualities within your organization and you will have a firm foundation.
Pillars rise to the top. A pillar not only represents the foundation of a building or organization, but symbolically represents its potential. Pillars in your organization rise to the top because they have paid the price with respect to hard work, reputation building, and trust. Pillars on a building are placed there by the builder. Pillars in the organization grow there over time.
Pillars give support to others. Structurally, pillars provide cover and keep things in place. Organizationally, the principle works the same. Pillars give support to those around them in order for others to thrive and succeed.
The residual effect of a pillar is in how his support is reciprocated. Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “If you continually help others, then others will eventually want to help you. Just remember: It’s not how heavy the load is. It’s how you carry it.”
Pillars stand the test of time. By design, pillars are placed strategically to fortify a structure. Come what may, pillars are the anchors of your organization. In like manner, leadership pillars have stood the test of time, gained wisdom that is acquired through experience, and offer the maturity needed to mentor future pillars.
C.S. Lewis said, “What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear.” The pillars of your organization are the guardians of the warning signs; tested, experienced, trustworthy, and grounded.
In as much as there is a need for pillars within each organization, one must not turn a blind eye to the presence of illusions either. In a rather creative way, Wren fooled the municipal authorities of his day by adding what appeared to be additional pillars to the building. It looked the part but it did not play the part.
In your organization optical illusions look and sound like team members, but at the end of the day, they are only in it for themselves. Distinguishing pillars from illusions is made easier due to the last characteristic. This last characteristic runs contrary to the illusion masqueraded by the pretender.
Pillars cast a big shadow. Pillars understand that their rise to the top is only successful as they raise others up to the same stature. A strong team is built not by a handful of pillars but by a cast of them. Rather than rely of the strength of a small number of pillars, the team thrives because of a host of them.
Pillars encourage team members to perform at optimum levels. Mark Sanborn said, “Remarkable performers see in others what they have discovered in themselves-the ability to reach unexplored and unanticipated levels of performance. They inspire others through their own performances, instruct others through their own teaching, and help others improve through their encouragement.”
Be encouraged to rise to your full potential, support others along the way, stand the test of time, and cast a big shadow. As you do, you will stand among the pillars.
© 2009 Doug Dickerson