by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.
When the leadership team of a mission-based organization is strong, that organization is much more likely to achieve great results and meaningful community impact. Without a strong leadership team, the organization may fail to gain great momentum or may lurch from one initiative to the next without ever making the kind of difference leaders dream of making.
You can be much more confident of fulfilling your mission when you build a strong leadership team. Among other things, this requires developing effective approaches for leadership communication and decision-making that allow leaders to lead the organization well.
Strong leadership also involves establishing a prime point—a point that leaders always return to when they face tough choices or feel uncertain about a key decision. The prime point includes your core purpose and core values. It’s not about everything you do and it’s not about every value everyone can cite as important. It’s about the core values that override everything else when those push comes to shove decisions must be made. The core values should be embodied and apparent in every activity and every decision.
Developing your Prime Point. It can be very advantageous to develop one sentence that addresses both the organization’s core purpose and core value(s). Convene the leadership team to discuss certain questions to get at this– such as:
- Does your current mission statement effectively articulate the core purpose and values of your organization?
- Does everyone on the leadership team agree that this is the Prime Point—that it will guide choices and decisions every time in the foreseeable future? When tough choices and decisions must be made, will that articulated purpose win every time?
- What about those articulated values?
I don’t want you to get hung up on needing to change your mission statement– I’ve seen too many leadership teams throw up their hands when that work is due to be done! But if, after some discussion and reflection, you don’t all agree that the mission statement captures your Prime Point, it may be worthwhile to develop a Prime Point statement. Your Prime Point statement should be easily remembered by everyone and provide a clear reference point. At any given moment when choices must be made about direction, any member of the leadership team ought to be able to state the Prime Point. And it should distinguish you from other organizations in the community.
Contrasting Examples of Prime Point Statements
Two different examples of Prime Point statements for a Behavioral Healthcare Organization—the prime point of one is to provide services and the prime point of the other is to achieve certain results among their clients. The question then becomes—if someone objectively observes what we do and how we do it, is this really our prime point? Is this really the primary guide for our choices and decisions?
- To provide comprehensive, integrated mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disability services that promote the health and quality of life of all community members.
- Helping people with mental illness to live full, empowered, self-determined lives in the community.
A School’s Prime Point
- Helping students from educationally underserved communities develop the knowledge, skills, character and habits needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.
- Maintaining a learning environment that consistently nurtures the most natural process of development of each individual student and a lifelong love of learning.
A Voter Advocacy Organization’s Prime Point
- Giving clear, objective information to citizens in our community to increase informed participation in civic processes and create better government for a better community.
- Advancing justice by ensuring that the judicial selection process is fair and expeditious and encouraging the selection of judges who respect constitutional values and the rights of citizens.
Your leadership team will be stronger in fulfilling its purpose when all leaders can state the organization’s prime point in a simple and straightforward single sentence. When the prime point is clear—and agreed-upon by all members of the leadership team– decisions are easier to make and constructive conflict is maximized while unconstructive conflict is minimized. When your leadership team has a clear and agreed-upon Prime Point, you can more effectively create value every day and achieve the kind of impact you all dream of.
Like to learn more? Join me at a Colorado Free University class in Southwest Denver Friday, September 11th, 2- 4pm.