Many leadership experts and self-help gurus have celebrated the virtue of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” Words spoken more than 100 years ago, they still reverberate to this day.
Some love these words. Some hate them.
However, most of our modern society, or at least the institutions of modern society, are geared toward destinations. We tend to think we’ll achieve true happiness when we get that next raise or promotion, or when our business hits a certain profit margin, or when our son or daughter get married, or we become “successful,” or lose weight … and the list goes on.
The quandary of culture, in business and government, is seen by many as a fuzzy area of leadership. How do we define culture? What actions do we take to strengthen it? How important is it really?
And yet there is a simple test to determine if an organization’s culture has gone awry or is on the upswing — a test born of the words of Emerson written more than a century ago.
Is the business more concerned with the destination, as in future profits, market share, and stock price? Or is the business focused at least as much on the journey, as in how much are we enjoying the ride, what is morale like, and how do people feel about the brand?
Once we transition away from the passion of birthing a vision into existence (the exciting start up phase) to, we need to deliver x-percent profits to shareholders and investors, we’ve just gone from enjoying the ride to focusing on the destination.
And why would Emerson’s wisdom be any less applicable to a modern-day institution, than to our own lives?
In addition to the growing body of research that illustrate the connection between happiness and success, culture and business performance, and authentic values to brand distinction, there are also the words from Emerson and others like him who came before, and who sang their wisdom for the future to remember and learn from.
Shall we remember together? After all, this wisdom is not new.