The Big Picture

The lens through which you look at your life is as important as what you see through it. Most of us see only a small chunk of what is really happening. This view informs what we believe to be true and thus, as I have stated many times before, the way we act.

Developing a holistic view of the world is the first step in building anything of lasting value. Even if it is just a simple relationship. To not understand the far reaching impact of our actions is denying how everything is connected. And to not base our actions on thoughts that are informed by knowledge of an entire system is not acting in the system’s best interest.

When a new boss takes over a business, they are often presented with a problem that they end up putting all their focus on. The problem might be in sales development, employee performance, brand awareness, product reliability. You name it. Bottom line, something is off. What they then set out to do is fight the problem. While there is a certain amount of legitimacy in doing so, any short term action plan needs to be backed by a strategic long term vision. If you realize that your product is failing to perform, of course you have to remove it from stores, but you must also understand what allowed for it to fail in the first place.

Let’s take our current health situation:

We are in a health crisis. But it is not the health crisis we think it is. The fact that Covid-19 has impacted our health care system and the health of our society is just the tip of the iceberg. 

If we look at this crisis from “above,” the concern becomes the poor state of health of so many people in the US. No one can deny that a body with an already compromised immune system is at great risk of contracting and being affected by a virus. The pandemic exists on top of an underlying epidemic: unhealthy eating and lifestyle choices that have led to high rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Zoom out again and add the media content that is produced and consumed en masse, elevating the high levels of stress we already feel due to lockdowns, fear of the virus, business issues and so on. While battling the virus head on has its merit, true leadership would require applying a holistic approach to this crisis and examining all facets of the system in order to alleviate the root problems of the system for good.

Yes, we must follow through with sensible responses to contain the spread of a virus, of a failing product, of a toxic work culture, but it is also important to go to the root of a problem and ask “how did this happen?” This is not about playing the blame game. This is about taking responsibility- that is what leadership is about.

Responsibility can only be taken for a system that we understand as a whole. A “keyhole perspective” does not work to solve problems in the long run, and a good running system is made for the long term deployment of value.

If you as someone that is responsible for other people- be it as a business owner, head of household or an appointed leader- look the other way thinking that it is not your job to take responsibility at a macro-level, if you believe that you can compartmentalize responsibility and outsource it, then you are already building PR campaigns for future failures. You are anticipating and nurturing them. You are openly signaling to everyone that you are not here to do root work, but to remove dead leaves.

Put down the magnifying glass and trade it in for a wide angle lens. Understand your system (business) as a whole: What is it built on? What does it seek to achieve? What does it need to do in order to achieve long term success? What does success even look like?

Then, and only then, should you hand a magnifying glass over to those you put in charge of taking care of the individual pieces of your business, ever reminding them that you are there, the caretaker of the whole, to guide and lead them so that their actions are in line with the big picture that you own and are responsible for.


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