The word foundation has many roots, one of which is the greek word θεμέλια (themélia) where we get the word theme. These are general statements coming here so don’t take them as gospel but generally speaking, if you want to be an actress you go to LA, if you want to be a technologist you go to Silicon Valley, if you want to be a model you go to NYC, if you want to be a country singer you go to Nashville. Each of these cities or geographic locations have a theme to them, something that they in general produce a lot of. These are large scale examples but each of us as leaders produce something in the environments in which we lead. If these environment produce these types of professionals, what type of professional does your environment produce?

When I think of the word foundation, I don’t think of the word theme, I think more in terms of what something is built upon. I think of something strong that can hold a lot of weight and keep it steady. When I think of theme, I think in terms of theme park, like Disney for example. There is a constant vibe in that place evidenced in everything from the entrance to the bathroom to lines on rides and of course in all the restaurants. It’s a bit of a jump to think of theme as a root for foundation but what is a strong foundation in a building if the paint is ugly and the decorations are terrible. The building, no matter how strong the foundation, cannot be used for it’s intended purpose unless the theme is attractive to those who are supposed to use it.

Let’s think about your team now. If your leadership is a foundation, a place of strong support that you can build on, what is the theme that attracts certain people? Think Nashville and country music. There are recording studios everywhere and a ton of bars and clubs that all need live performers. This environment attracts aspiring country singers. This theme acts as a foundation in Nashville. If you had to define the theme of your environment, what would it be? How could you articulate that in a way that would cause those you are trying to recruit to want to come there?

  • ACTION ITEM: Get together with your leadership team and ask them each to write down what they think the theme of your environment it.

This will be a great start to helping you determine what your theme is. If you have not been intentional about it like Disney, don’t worry, it’s not too late. Start with identifying what it is, then collectively define what you want it to be. As a team you can start to build that environment and start producing some specific characteristics in the people that are there and begin to attract the kind of people who want what your environment offers. Your place could literally be the next LA or NYC or Silicon Valley. None of those places happened by accident, be intentional about the kind of environment you want and then go for it. Elvis is waiting!


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