People and Purpose. According to Phired Up Productions, one of the most dynamic organizations I have had the pleasure of working with, those are the two most fundamental ingredients for a successful organization. This core idea is transforming membership organizations, particularly those I work with - fraternities and sororities.
(A) Ancient Greeks
Have you ever thought about why many fraternities and sororities chose Greek letters and mottoes for their organizations? The founders of the organizations were founding Hellenistic societies, committed to developing reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, moderation, civic responsibility, and bodily development.
This commitment is the foundation of Greek organizations.
The founders of these organizations sought to transform their members and the world around them. By connecting their members to Hellenistic ideals, and by directing them to act on moral values, they were creating the men and women who could change the world in positive and profound ways - heroes. And, by acting on their values in the world around them, the founders understood they were empowering their members to be leaders, and they were engaging in transformational leadership.
They looked to classical philosophers, such as Aristotle, to show the way.
“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it: men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts, we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.” -Aristotle
Aristotle's idea is far from just the product of an ancient way of thinking. In modern research, we have discovered that the brain organizes behavior patterns in the same way that it organizes habits and skills.
(B) The Brain & Behavior Patterns
"From the perspective of how the brain works, a behavior pattern is no different from a habit or a skill. We do something so often that the brain rewires itself. The brain cells involved in the behavior grow dendrites to form new connections among the cells involved. When the pathway is complete, the behavior no longer requires concentration."
The behavior then becomes an automatic, natural response to the world around us.
Modern science, it appears, has caught up to classical philosophy. By the acts we repeatedly do, we create who we are.
The organizations that we participate in not only define who we are, they create who we are. They create our behaviors and identities through the organization's programs, through what's discussed at meetings, and through the informal interactions. They create who we are by what we do, and by what we don't do.
Enter the heroic organization. If we want to create people who act on their values and change the world, our organizations must create patterns of behavior that focus on courage, sacrifice, speed, strength, team, and the question, the heroic arts. Each activity, each meeting, and each program must be a miniature version of the organization's purpose. In every one of those opportunities, people and purpose come together.
In this sense, the organization's purpose is the large cow in the above fractal, and each part of the organization is one of the small- or medium-sized cows. If one of those small cows were a duck, it would not be a good representation of the large cow. If the organization's purpose is to develop leadership and moral responsibility, and the members tolerate behaviors that degrade and dehumanize new members, people of different ethnic or racial groups, or women, they are changing the character of the organization.
This also is true of individual members as representatives of the larger organization, or chapters as representatives of the inter/national organization. If one member or chapter is being a duck, anybody who meets that person or interacts with that group will think that the inter/national organization is a duck. These members and chapters warp the true mission and purpose of the organization.
If we want to deliver on the legacy and promise of our organizations' founders, it is important that every activity, meeting, and program deliver on that promise, creating the people who will change the world.