Part 1: Business is an Ecosystem, not a Battlefield

Mar 19, 2024 11:05 AM

by: Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc.

In a few short months, our last daughter will leave the nest. In these moments, a parent takes inventory of the job they’ve done preparing their children for life outside the home. I think my wife and I deserve a passing grade as my children are terrific! In all honesty, most of the credit for that grade goes to my wife, Kristin, who has carried the greatest burden of that parenting responsibility while I have spent most of the last 27 years “at the office.”

Perhaps in an effort to pacify my absentee parent guilt, it occurred to me that maybe there is something more I can share with my children as they prepare for adulthood about what I have learned watching great leaders in those 27 years with GE and Primary Residential Mortgage (PRMI). If my children find value in my shared thoughts, that is a return enough for me. But I share it with my friends and colleagues as well in the event these ideas might resonate with that circle of people dear to me. Many of them have been my inspiration for these leadership thoughts.

Today, I share the first of eight leadership mindsets I have recognized in the best leaders. The remaining leadership principles will follow over the coming weeks. I don’t pretend to have perfected any of these. My experience with leadership is that victory can never be declared. Every day brings failure and success that only add to the overall experience that makes a good leader a little better today than yesterday.

Leadership Principle One:

Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield!

Qualities of successful leaders who understand this mindset: Authenticity, Collaboration, Selflessness, Humility, Empathy

In nature, an ecosystem consists of various organisms, environments, habitats and relationships that interact and depend on one another for survival. In a healthy ecosystem, this community of lifeforms co-exist in an almost perfect balance that optimizes the quality of life for all living organisms.

The Florida Everglades ecosystem, one of the most unique and diverse in the world, serves as an unfortunate example of an ecosystem in crisis that may never recover. Decades of human intervention, including urbanization efforts to drain the wetlands for development, have disrupted its delicate balance. Invasive species such as the Burmese python have found there the perfect habitat for survival. Purchased as pets and released by their owners, or escaped during the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew, these predators have outcompeted native species and eliminated much of the Everglades incredible biodiversity.

What is the leadership and business principle to be learned from this ecosystem metaphor?

The ecosystem of a flourishing and productive work environment and business culture is challenging to create and can be easily lost with one bad hire or self-serving leader. Selfishness, unchecked ego, distrust, unfairness, and negativity act as pollutants that disrupt a high-performing and balanced business ecosystem.

I have seen in the best leaders the following ideals that support a healthy ecosystem:

  • A leader who understands the principle that business is as an ecosystem knows that success is not achieved through domination, but rather collaboration.
  • They comprehend that business is not a zero-sum game like stock trading, where one person’s loss is another’s gain.
  • The best leaders understand that partnerships that leverage each person’s strengths create greater value for all.
  • A great leader focuses on the sustainability that comes from building enduring relationships among all an organization’s key stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, regulators, and shareholders).
  • They understand that sacrificing a personal gain for the overall health of the ecosystem is always the best strategy, producing collective benefit and greater long-term rewards.
  • Great leaders create a thriving ecosystem by generously sharing credit with others.

Recently, PRMI hosted a group of our organization’s leaders from across the country in beautiful Southern Utah. I witnessed a group of leaders who put aside ego and personal rivalries to share best practices and learnings from a very difficult year. Following what many long-term veterans of our industry have described as the most difficult industry cycle in 40 years, I beamed with pride as I watched this talented group of positive-minded leaders collaborate with one another on how to improve our organization, selflessly serve their customers, their organizations and each other.

It has been said that every organization has a culture, whether it is intentionally created, or allowed to unintentionally to develop on its own. Often, the organizations that aren’t intentional about their culture are unhappy with the outcome. Like culture, creating a business environment that functions as a productive ecosystem rather than a battlefield requires intentionality. This intentionality can produce a thriving work environment that attracts new talent seeking an environment where they can prosper. However, a thriving ecosystem not carefully managed can quickly become a wasteland with the release of just one surreptitious python.

Next »
Part 2: Leadership is service, not control

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