Efficiency and Dignity

Efficiency and Dignity
December 15, 2016 Trip Wilson


Netflix has just released the first season of a new series it has created entitled “The Crown.” It is the most expensive series ever created by the online network, and it is gaining phenomenal reviews. The story being told—and this year’s release of ten episodes will be the first of a multi-year process—is about the coming to power and reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England, a woman whose commanding presence has now crossed three generations.

In this first season, we see a very young Elizabeth being thrust into the role of Queen as a 20-something because of the untimely death of her father. She is not ready for her new role, much less to “rule.” Her father knew that as well as he knew he was dying. He called in his friend, the iconic British leader Winston Churchill. At the time, after World War II, Churchill was in retirement and had few political plans. The King convinced Churchill that the new Queen and the Empire would need him now more than ever. His daughter would need an advisor and close confidant to help her through the maturity of her first years. Churchill agrees, reasserts his place of leadership, has the new Queen’s full confidence, and begins to mold her and help her through the first movements of her reign.

At one moment of major crisis, a time when the roles of government and the crown are being challenged by changing times, she does not know what to do. Churchill comes quickly, and his advice is profound. He reminds the Queen that when the English Constitution was created that the role of the parliamentary government and the role of the monarchy were very, very clear. The parliamentary government was to take care of efficiency, getting things done in an orderly and strategic manner. The monarchy—the Queen—was to take care of dignity, the unassailable quality of presence that gave stability—the glue that held everything together.

The concept is deeply meaningful, especially if you have spent most of your life dealing with the Judgment Index. As many people who have studied the assessment know, there are two parts. Part 1—often called the work/external world side—has to do with the capacity for judgment that will advance the efficiencies of work and general activity in the world. Part 2—often called the Self/internal world side—has to do with the capacity for judgment that will advance the strong impact and stability of factors such as personal presence, character, and personal dignity.

In my mind, the concept being advanced by Churchill in “The Crown” is a fundamentally core concept about life. We need efficiency, the ability to run the “machine” of our world in an orderly, qualitative, and productive way. But, we also need dignity, a “machine” run well by people of character, dignity, and purposeful meaning. It may well be that the Judgment Index gives us a means to measure, assess, and develop the two factors in ways that they can mutually reinforce and inform each other. To try to go forward in our lives and work without efficiency and without dignity would seem to be an ill-fated pursuit, although our world of modern work seems much more concerned—in a singularly obsessive way—about efficiency, and dignity sometimes gets lost in the dust. The real challenge seems to have both —together—in highly complementary ways.

I’m not sure if there are many people who embrace both dynamics—efficiency and dignity. Maybe the English constitution knew to be both might have been asking for too much. I have known a couple of people who have embraced both—most prominently a man named Dan Wilford who lead the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Houston for twenty years to exceptional levels of success—but these have been few and far between. These kinds of people are, however, the true exemplars of leadership.

Maybe that is the reason we need conscious and intentional teams, understanding that some people will contribute more on the efficiency end and others on the dignity end; that some will technically advance the highest process agendas in exceptional ways, and others will provide elements of stability, character, and dignity. A tool like the Judgment Index can even make this process very clear and distinct, making sure that the right people are in the right efficiency places, and the right people are in the right dignity places.

If we look at the long history of the British Empire, we see a history speckled with moments of great power and great challenge. We see an Empire that has sustained itself through great and unrelenting change, and yet—as the old saying goes—“the sun never sets” on this Empire and its influence in our world. Many dynamics of Empire have changed, but stability, substance, and leadership—efficiency and dignity—have always been there and remain for us today.

We spend huge amounts of time thinking about efficiency. Maybe we need to spend more time thinking about dignity. Dignity even seems to be something more of a “spiritual” quality, and our modern world sometimes seems so uncomfortable with the idea of “spiritual” that it is ignored and pushed to the side. Maybe we need to understand that true leadership, whether it is companies or countries, will always be keeping both efficiency and dignity in focus and both advanced in a synergy that allows the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts.