Recently I was listening to a podcast where a speaker mentioned the three “M”s: Mastery, Membership, and Meaning. The problem is… I listen to way too many podcast and I can’t recall where it came from. Of course I found several web pages devoted to the three, and in some cases four, “M”s–don’t recall where it came from.
It would appear many people today are tuned out, turned off, or ready to leave. Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes; there’s one exception, “the happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems.”
The greatest organizations I have worked for are those that tackle the seemingly impossible problems.
All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. -John Kenneth Galbraith
As I pondered mastery, membership, and meaning and what it means to me; I was struck by the duality of the concept and quickly realized this goes way beyond an individual and must permeate both the organization and the leader. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald it is “within and without simultaneously.”
Mastery: The leader must emit a sense of mastery—a comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment…he must have creditability. With this creditability, followers will have a confidence and trust in his ability to lead. This mastery need not be technical expertise as much as it is a mastery of leadership–vision casting, strategy, communication, and direction.
Individuals inside the organization must emit similar mastery of their job at a tactical/operational level and a sense of contribution births a sense of membership. I believe most everyone wants to contribute, some simply feel they have little to contribute. If they can gain a sense of mastery in their work–the contribution becomes valuable.
Membership–a group of persons associated by some common tie or occupation and regarded as an entity. The leader in this membership creates a sense of community. The leader must reason with–“why would anyone want to be part of my organization or community?” David W. McMillan & David M. Chavis (1986) define sense of community as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”
When members can add their mastery of work to the members there is a great sense of belonging and contribution.
Meaning: Finally it is a sense of meaning or purpose that nourishes the soul. Once a member has a sense of mastery, a firm feeling of membership… it is then that meaning comes into play. It is what we do and who we are with that drives contentment. In a larger sense our mortality confronts us with questions of meaning. What is the point of our daily struggles? Most of us now have the leisure to contemplate the reasons driving our work and our play. Many are starved for meaning…and it is my hope they do not derive their sole sense of meaning from work–but it can add to a sense of accomplishment and a bit of fulfillment.
As leaders are you working on your mastery of your work? Does the organization you lead have a sense of membership? What about a sense of meaning? It is all about getting better isn’t it? If we are not getting better… what in the heck are we doing?