Visioning Mischief – the Ivory Tower

Sather Tower Photo by Bernt Rostad.

Ivory towers are a beautiful sight, particularly against a backdrop of a cloudless sky. 

Sather Tower, known to most as the Campanile, is perhaps UC Berkeley’s
most famous symbol. It was completed in 1915.  Visible for miles, it stands 307 feet tall and is
the third tallest bell and clock-tower in the world. The observation
platform, located 200 feet up, provides visitors with a spectacular view
of the entire Bay Area and of the campus.

With such a majestic structure with such grand history, could there possibly be mischief afoot?

We think there is.

From the 19th century, the ivory tower has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are not aligned with the practical concerns of everyday life. In fact, living in the “ivory tower” is perceived as having willfully [and almost entirely] disconnected from the everyday world. 

Bottom line is that you don’t want to hear your people ever use the word ivory tower in the same sentence with your name, referring to your leadership style. 

From a practical perspective, here’s what ivory tower leadership would look like.

You would be running the company from inside the safety of this
beautiful tower.  There isn’t much room for other people to be with you, not even your inner circle.  Perhaps just your right hand person, but only to visit from time to time. 

You might position your desk near
the windows at the top, thinking that the view would keep you connected to what is going on around you.  But no matter what direction you chose to face, some portion of your view would be obstructed.

And certainly your perspective would be skewed.  You are not seeing what everyone else is seeing.  

Without going to the observation platform, you can’t see what is going on around you.  And without going down to ground level, you can’t see what is happening there.  If you face north, you miss what happens in the south and if you face east, you miss the beauty of the sunset.  Oh and if you are using your rose colored glasses even on the observation tower, that is TOTAL mischief, and not the good kind.

Towers are a great place to visit when you are visiting a city or a university, but they are not ideal for visioning, planning or leading teams or efforts.

Get LOTS of different perspectives, including from the top of the tower.  Listen to perspectives that you are not exposed to.  Stay connected. 

And stay tuned for more mischief.  MK will be back from down under soon.


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