We live at a time of “terrifying opportunity”. From the climate emergency to the rise of authoritarianism, we face a dizzying array of threats, yet there is also vast positive potential all around us. To make the most of it, we need human ingenuity to flourish, in social movements, purpose-driven businesses, and the many other collaborations that can change our world for the better.
Nothing starts without a founder, but here’s the great paradox: to grow a collective endeavour, it can’t just be about the founder. We have to decentralise, yet at the same time, founders and their successors have a natural authorship and vital role to play in endeavours they start. A founder failing to show up well can be the undoing of everything, but get it right and a purposeful vision can come to life spectacularly.
Sharing the seminal thinker Peter Koenig’s decades of research, and his own experience of developing highly participatory initiatives, Tom Nixon will introduce you to a new perspective on being a founder and developing purposeful endeavours that can harness the creative potential of everyone involved.
Work with Source is a comprehensive guide that can be read from cover to cover or used as a reference for founders to help them meet the pivotal challenges they’ll encounter on the journey.
About the author
Tom Nixon is an advisor to purpose-driven leaders. He is also the founder of Maptio, an associate at Greaterthan, an activist, and a director of the Meaning Conference on better 21st-century business.
Maptio allows groups who are working with source to visualise how a vision for an initiative breaks down into the smaller parts that contribute to it. At each level you can see who’s responsible for what, and who is helping. The visual map can replace an old-fashioned organisation chart with something that reflects the true creative structure.
Elon Musk is the powerful source at the innovative motor company Tesla. Check out this book extract to see how Musk senses the very high level next steps for the initiative as whole. Focussing on what matters most: ‘whatever your job is now, your new job is delivering cars’; hiring and firing executives to save it from catastrophe; and even selling the company outright (of course with a deal that he remains in charge of the company).
You can also see here a risk of isolation. So obsessed and demanding about delivering on his vision that he’s created a climate of fear. Executives hid the truth from him when things were going badly. That’s a huge problem which could have destroyed the company. A source needs reliable information to be able to make decisions.
There are two jobs for founder to do well: Sourcing, which is sensing and executing the next creative/strategic steps for the initiative as a whole; and leadership, which is all about how you engage the people you have recruited to help you realise the vision. They are distinct activities. Sometimes what you need to do as source is not in the individual best interests of everyone. Decisions can be unpopular and may appear irrational. But to realise a vision, you have to take the next steps as soon as they become clear, otherwise the vision will not materialise, and the passion will drain from the initiative.
It sounds like Musk is a natural source, but perhaps more of an Industrial Age one, leading through fear and command and control. It can certainly be an effective way to realise a vision, but the lack of progressive leadership could become his downfall if he cannot keep the thousands of people working there, helping him to realise his vision, engaged.
This is a fascinating article to read through a source lens. Many tensions could be resolved if the co-founders worked out who is the source and who is the helper. Plus of course dealing with each of their projections to avoid being triggered by certain behaviours.