Before Block outlines his framework for the Social Architect leader, he juxtaposes his idea with the archetype of the leader as either an Engineer, an Economist, or an Artist. It should be prefaced that Block doesn't claim these to be archetypes independent of each other or that all leadership styles fit within these categories. Rather, he will eventually argue that in the Social Architect archetype the ideal leader is one where each of the following are integrated. The first three archetypes:
· Control, Predict, Automate, Measure
· The world is a problem to be solved and overcome
· Cost, Safety, Control, Predict
· What can be taken or extracted from the world?
· Feeling, intuition, abstract, love
· Bringing meaning and depth to everyday aspects of the world.
The role of the Social Architect is "to design and bring into being organizations that serve both the marketplace and the soul of the people who work within them" (171) Personally, I love the Social Architect metaphor because of the distinction that the leader has a dual role - both marketplace and employees. While I think perhaps that both are essentially the same in that leaders serve people no matter whether they are customers or employees, I think that the idea that both matter is often missed in books about leadership. Many leadership and management books in recent years tend to focus on the climate and culture that the leader must build within an organization with the implicit assumption that when such a climate or culture is created, customers will follow. Or, books on marketing tend to deal primarily with customer service while ignoring the impact of employee-employer relations in fostering a good customer relations schema.
Block's point comes back to his original assertion that the context is more important than the content - or more accurately, that the context must come before the content. He says in this regard that "the social architect's task is to provide a context for the organization's purpose or strategy, and then engage others in a way that embodies those values in people's hearts." (175) Although he is talking in this passage about creating 'space for what matters', I think that this encapsulates the enormous task of the leader: to engage in, and provide opportunities for meaning-making, instead of defining the meaning. The danger that each of us in leadership positions faces is to take the easy-in-the-short-term road and mandate policies and procedures that define the vision and mission. A colleague recently gave me the advice that I should "make the decision that will be easier in the long run". Of course, this means that it will be harder in the immediate. What Block is suggesting in his Social Architect framework will not be easier today, but I believe that the principles presented will help to foster a workplace that honours people, which is ultimately the task of employers and leaders in all varieties of organizations.
Block, Peter. The answer to how is yes: acting on what matters. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002.